The Red Wings have dropped seven of their last eleven games at Joe Louis Arena, an inexplicable lapse on home ice that's left the players and coaches puzzled. Last night's 4-1 loss to Dallas left a bitter taste in Todd Bertuzzi's mouth, and he's not alone.
"It's like a broken record right now," said Bertuzzi. "Guys aren't obviously thrilled about it. No one's pleased when they lose. Some nights it doesn't go well but at the same time, we've got a lot more to give and a lot better play to do and we just have to refocus it for these road games."
"I thought we played real good for five games, we were in a lull before that and we look like we're right where we were," said head coach Mike Babcock. "Ideally, this will be short. Thank God we're going on the road and we don't have to come back to the Joe so we can maybe help ourselves out and get ourselves a win."
It seemed the Red Wings struggles were behind them during a recent five-game winning streak, but spotty defense reared its ugly head again in Thursday's loss to the Stars, a game that sent many fans home early.
"I don't know what the deal is with us at home this season, especially since December," said forward Dan Cleary. "Maybe it's a good time to go on the road. Give the fans a bit of a break from the lackluster efforts here at home."
The Red Wings expect to get a lift from Mike Modano, who's cleared to play in Buffalo Saturday night. Modano has been rehabbing from a nasty laceration to his wrist that damaged tendons and nerves.
"Yeah, I'm excited," said Modano. "I've basically had two summer breaks off in one year, so it's been a long time coming. I'm excited to just get started, get those first couple weeks out of the way and get back up to speed."
Valtteri Filppula may also return, but Babcock wasn't ready to commit to that yet.
"We'd like to get them, we need some energy, it's apparent in the last two nights we haven't had the kind of energy we want," said Babcock. "Those guys are good hockey players and I've said it all along - it'll be nice to get everyone on deck and get playing the way we're capable of playing and do it for a period of time that you're comfortable that you can and will do it."
"Good to have Mo back," said Cleary. "Fil as well. We're starting to get on the mend here health wise. As a team I think right now we can use a little injection of enthusiasm and energy."
Even if Filppula returns from his knee injury, much of the focus will be on hometown hero Modano.
"You know, it's just our life and our routine," said Modano. "When you're away from it for so long you certainly miss it. You look forward to the days when you get back in that day-to-day routine with everybody else, traveling. This is what we love doing, so when it's taken away from you, you work hard and do what you can to get it back."
Three Red Wings, Ruslan Salei, Chris Osgood and Johan Franzen, are expecting their wives to give birth in the coming days. Babcock is doing his best to make the players will be present for the childbirths.
"Well the NHL has changed a little bit, let's just say that," said Babcock. "But I think it's real important. I didn't miss the birth of any of my kids. I was thankful for the opportunity to be there and it's a special thing that's ever going to happen to you, much more important than hockey, so good for him."