Detroit — A week ago, the Red Wings were a wreck and the prospect of a long road trip seemed like more bad news.
Now, maybe it’s coming at the right time.
That’s what happens when you beat two powerful teams like Boston and Vegas, and now head to California for a three-game road trip against three teams who are in the same predicament the Wings were win.
They’re aren’t winning much.
So, timing might be everything for the Wings.
“Completely agree on that one,” said Anthony Mantha, whose late goal Sunday downed Vegas. “It’s going to be three hard games, every other night on this trip, but we need to focus on Anaheim (Tuesday).
“Hopefully we can win that first one, and get on a heater for the rest of this trip.”
The Wings face Anaheim, Los Angeles (Thursday) and San Jose (Saturday) — three of the bottom six teams in the Western Conference.
What gives the Wings some optimism heading into this trip is the reawakening of the special teams — which have struggled so badly this season — and the play of goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
Nobody is ready to say the Wings have completely turned around their power play and penalty kill, but at least there are positives.
They were 3-for-7 in the two victories on the power play, and killed 5-of-6 penalties, tipping the balance in two close games to the Wings’ side.
Coach Jeff Blashill feels those two areas will figure prominently also on the West Coast.
“Those games (last weekend) can go either way, and in the end, we had a couple of big saves at huge moments and we out-specialty teamed them,” Blashill said. “Five-on-five, we’ve played fairly good hockey, that’s what the underlying stats say.
“Two big keys every night is special teams and goaltending and we’ve gotten that the last couple of nights.”
What the last two games have shown, too, is the fact the talent level between the top of the NHL and the bottom isn’t as large as some of these recent Wings’ losses suggest.
The Wings played better all-around games over the weekend, and the results were victories against two teams with deeper rosters.
“I say it all the time, and I don’t think you all always believe me, but the league is like this,” Blashill said. “The difference from the best to a team like us that’s at the bottom is minimal in terms of talent.
“There’s not a huge difference, not like 15 years ago when there was huge differences. So if you go out and play your best hockey, you have a chance to win. We just have to keep working toward building our game.”
The Wings were a team that was rapidly losing confidence while losing 12 of 13 games before defeating Boston.
After two victories, the Wings are feeling better about themselves.
“Confidence becomes a huge factor in this league,” Blashill said. “That’s why you see teams go on big runs one way or another. We just have to keep building confidence.”
The Wings will be without forward Justin Abdelkader for about three weeks, Blashill said, with a mid-body injury.
Abdelkader was hurt in Sunday’s victory. He played just under 12 minutes and was credited with three blocked shots.
Abdelkader has three points (all assists) in 16 games, with a plus-1 rating.
“He did a good job defensively, he had the injury earlier this season and had to come back, and now another injury,” Blashill said. “It’s tough for him. I appreciate the sacrifice he makes. It’s unfortunate, but part of the game.”
The Wings brought up Givani Smith to fill Abdelkader’s spot on the fourth line. Smith played in three games earlier this season with the Wings with no points. Smith had seven points (three goals) in 10 games with the Griffins
“He fits in that fourth line well,” Blashill said. “He can keep that line’s element, that line has been good for us. He can add to that abrasiveness and physicality, and forechecking and net presence, things that are important for us.
“It’ll be good to have him up.”
Taro Hirose has been a healthy scratch the last two games, essentially since the arrival of Robby Fabbri in a trade late last week.
With only five points (all assists) in 17 games, and a minus-8 rating, Hirose’s lack of production wasn’t helping his cause.
“With Taro’s size and speed, he has to really learn how to be unbelievably crafty,” Blashill said. “It’s hard for him because he’s getting out-muscled (along the walls). He has to find ways to be unbelievably crafty to make sure he keeps possession of the puck. That’s something that takes time.
“He’s played fine, but obviously we don’t score enough and our power play wasn’t good enough. He’s somebody, if he’s anything, he’s going to be an offensive player and he wasn’t quite offensive enough.”
Red Wings at Ducks
► Faceoff: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Honda Center, Anaheim, Calif.
► TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit-plus/97.1 FM
► Outlook: Anaheim (9-8-1) has lost six of its last nine games, including two consecutive games…The Ducks have also scored two or less goals in eight of their last 10 games…C Ryan Getzlaf (11 points) continues to be a force, but G John Gibson (2.80 goals-against average, .915 save percentage) has kept the Ducks close most games.