Red Wings set for big early season test against Bruins
Detroit — The calendar says late November and the NHL season has just crawled past the quarter mark.
But Tuesday's game for the Red Wings in Boston could mean a little more than usual.
The Wings have been a surprise in these early weeks, and lead Boston by one point in the standings, though the Bruins have the better win percentage.
Leaving Boston with a victory would give further notice that maybe the Wings are closer to being for real than most analysts felt they would be. It would keep Detroit in the upper half of the standings.
The Wings would also avenge an loss in Boston.
"We put a lot of emphasis on every game," defenseman Jordan Oesterle said. "We didn't have the outing that we wanted last time we were in Boston (a 5-1 loss). They're a playoff-style team and a team we want to beat to stay with, or in front, of the standings. It's a divisional game, so these are two very big points.
"We're definitely looking ahead to, not a must win, but we want to go in there and have a good start and try to come out with a victory."
There's always that cliche, maybe more so in football, about being a litmus test and seeing how a team compares to a contender.
That fits here, with the younger Red Wings and older, playoff-tested Bruins. Coach Jeff Blashill said the NHL provides a good indicator for what kind of team you are every game.
"Every night in this league is a litmus test in where you stand," Blashill said. "We're going to a play a real good team in their building and we want to find a way to win. If we do find a way to win, it says you beat a good team on the road. But we'll have another game the next night and we'll have to find a way to do that."
Oesterle likes where the Wings are positioned at this point of the schedule.
"We started very strong and were producing a lot of goals and offense," Oesterle said "As bad as it was to see a little bit of hiccups in our defensive zone, we've matured and kind of were able to get through that little patch and rebounded with some good games."
Penalty kill important
The Wings allowed three Patrice Bergeron power-play goals in the previous loss to the Bruins. So the penalty kill was a huge point of emphasis during Monday's practice.
"Two of those were probably mistakes that guys who had not done it much missed their assignment," Blashill said. "They've done it more, now, and are more prepared. Boston presents challenges but if we give up those goals again, that's insane."
Blashill said it'll be important to keep the Boston crowd in check.
"We've played good at home. But part of that is because of the energy we've played with and some of that is helped by the home crowds. They've been awesome," Blashill said. "Now we have to make sure to go an opponent's arena and make sure that it's not a hard building to play in."
Oesterle has been paired with Moritz Seider in recent games. He sees the talent the young defenseman possesses.
"He's a great player, so young, but you can see how good he's going to be," Oesterle said. "Every time I'm out there, I'm just trying to get the puck to him and let him do what he wants to do with it."
Oesterle has been able to play a few games in a row lately, after being a healthy scratch for most of the first few weeks.
"Stay patient and be a good teammate and show up to the rink every day and work, that's all you can do," Oesterle said. "It's tough not playing when I want to help the team. But we have eight great defensemen and someone is going to have to sit every night."
Defenseman Filip Hronek didn't practice Monday with a non-COVID 19 illness. His availabity for Tuesday wasn't known.
"I anticipate him playing, but you never know," Blashill said.
Red Wings at Bruins
►Faceoff: 7 p.m., Tuesday, TD Garden
►Outlook: Boston (11-7-0) defeated the Wings earlier this season. Though trailing the Wings by a point in the standings (23-22), the Bruins lead them in win percentage (.611 to .523). ... LW Brad Marchand (24 points), C Patrice Bergeron (18 points) and RW David Pastrnak (18 points) continue to form one of the most prolific scoring lines in the NHL.