Babcock: This is best Detroit team since ’09 Cup finalists

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The Detroit Red Wings entered this season amid low expectations after just barely making the playoffs in 2013-14. That campaign was another step in their efforts to rebuild on the fly and it corresponded with the team enduring a franchise-record 421 man games lost due to injuries, but they weren’t always given the benefit of the doubt as their potential weaknesses were often the subject of discussion after their relatively quiet summer.

Everything seems to have come together so far this season though as the old guard, led by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, have been complimented nicely by their rapidly developing core of Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan. Through 28 games, Detroit is tied in points for first in the Atlantic Division with a 17-6-5 record.

“They (the team’s veterans) have been here through the good times and the slower times and now they see our team on the climb again,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “This is the best team we’ve had here since ’09, not necessarily point-wise, but direction-wise. We have more players that are hungry and going in the right direction than we have in a long time.”

Although there’s still a lot of hockey left to play this season, if Detroit has already endured the shakiest stages of its rebuild, then that would be yet enough testament to the consistency of this franchise. Detroit has made the playoffs 23 consecutive campaigns and is well on its way to making it 24. Meanwhile, some of the teams that have gone through more traditional rebuilding processes since the cap era started can only look on with jealousy as Detroit seemingly manages to have its cake and eat it too.

Part of Detroit’s success comes from disciplined management decisions, but it’s also cultural. Detroit knows what it takes to win and teams that lose that during a full-fledged rebuild can have trouble getting it back.

“Confidence is a big thing; if you get to feeling good about yourself and get used to winning and expect to win that becomes the standard for you,” Babcock said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what good teams do. They expect to win. They prepare to win. They play hard enough to win and in the end they do win.”

Detroit and Toronto will play in Wednesday Night’s rivalry game on NBCSN (8:00 p.m. ET).

Datsyuk, Bobrovsky, Ekblad named NHL’s three stars of the week

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Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Florida’s Aaron Ekblad have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 7, the league announced on Monday.

The highlights:

Datsyuk shared the League lead with seven points (3-4—7) in four games, including three multi-point performances, to help the Red Wings (17-6-5, 39 points) pick up a trio of victories and tie the Lightning (18-7-3, 39 points) for the most points in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Bobrovsky posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.62 goals-against average and .956 save percentage to backstop the Blue Jackets (9-15-2, 20 points) to their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Ekblad led all defensemen and tied for fourth in the NHL with six points (2-4—6) in four games to lead the Panthers (11-7-7, 29 points) to five out of a possible eight standings points.

Datsyuk’s accomplishments are remarkable considering he’s missed a bunch of time this year — 11 games, to be exact — with a nagging groin injury. He currently sits third in the NHL in points per game (1.29), trailing only Sidney Crosby and Tyler Seguin; should it hold, that 1.29 PPG rate would be the highest of Datsyuk’s 13-year NHL career.

Ruff angry, fed up with Garbutt’s lack of discipline

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Lindy Ruff has seen just about enough of Ryan Garbutt’s antics.

Garbutt, one of Dallas’ two in-house pests (along with Antoine Roussel), was punished by his head coach during Thursday’s loss to Detroit for — surprise! — some undisciplined play.

From Stars Inside Edge:

The Stars went on their first power play of the game late in the period, but towards the end of it Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt took a slashing penalty, which put the Red Wings hot power play on the job. Detroit took advantage. Pavel Datsyuk grabbed the puck in the slot and backhanded it past [Jussi] Rynnas at 18:52 of the period.

Ruff was not happy with Garbutt, who didn’t see the ice in the second period.

“It was a tough penalty. I don’t think I played him at all in the second period,” Ruff said. “We talked about the discipline. That discipline hurt us in the game. I told him I don’t want anymore. To that point, I thought we were controlling a good part of the game.”

Not a new theme. Over the last season and a bit, Garbutt has compiled himself a pretty serious rap sheet; he’s been suspended twice — once for kneeing, once for charging — for a grand total of seven games, and was fined during last year’s playoffs for spearing Corey Perry in the groin.

Ruff, clearly, is not a fan of Garbutt’s antics.

The head coach made this abundantly clear last month, admonishing Garbutt’s “reckless” knee-on-knee hit against Taylor Hall, which resulted in a two-game banishment.

“It’s something he has a tough time with,” Ruff said of Garbutt’s disciplinary issues, per the Dallas Morning News. “We had a tough time with it last year, but I thought we were making some headway.

“I feel like I’m losing a bit of ground again.”

Ruff’s slow burn over Garbutt’s undisciplined play came to a head last night, when he gave the gritty forward just 5:02 of total ice time (none in the second period, 1:59 in the third). It was enough for veteran Stars beat writer Mike Heika to ask the question — will Dallas be forced to healthy scratch Garbutt to really get the message through?

We won’t have to wait long to find out. Dallas is back in action on Saturday against Montreal, where it’ll look to snap its current four-game losing streak.

Report: Wings’ Abdelkader to miss two weeks (Updated)

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Justin Abdelkader was originally expected to miss just Tuesday’s game with a shoulder injury according to the Detroit Free Press.

However, TSN’s Aaron Ward is reporting the Red Wings’ forward could miss as much as two weeks.

Abdelkader suffered the injury late in the second period of Detroit’s 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks Sunday on a hit from defenseman Luca Sbisa.

The 27-year-old was off to a solid start with seven goals and eight assists through 24 games. He had just 10 goals and 28 points in 70 games last season.

Abdelkader had also developed chemistry of late playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

“He’s at the net for those guys,” head coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit Free Press. “They don’t need another guy to have the puck, they need somebody at the net to get it back for them.”

Joakim Andersson, who was a healthy scratch Sunday, skated on a line with Drew Miller and Luke Glendening at Monday’s practice as Babcock re-worked his lines for Tuesday’s meeting with the Panthers.

Hot Wings edge Canucks, but lose Abdelkader

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The Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks are two of the hottest teams in the league right now, but of course only one of them could emerge victorious when they played this afternoon. Detroit got off to a better start and while Vancouver fought back, the Red Wings still secured a 5-3 victory.

Niklas Kronwall put Detroit ahead just 3:15 minutes into the game. Gustav Nyquist scored his 11th goal of the season roughly eight minutes later to put the Red Wings up by two.

“They had a better 1st period than us, from there we chipped and clawed back, but it clearly wasn’t enough,” Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller said, per the team’s Twitter feed.

Linden Vey was the Canucks’ best player this afternoon with two goals and an assist, although his second goal was on the controversial side as it bounced off his skate before going into the net with 3:50 minutes left in regulation. After the play was reviewed, the league ruled that he didn’t kick it in.

That put Vancouver within one, but in the final minute of play and with Miller pulled, Pavel Datsyuk gave the Red Wings some breathing room with an empty-netter.

Detroit has now won six of its last seven games to improve to 14-5-5, but the news wasn’t all good. The Red Wings also lost forward Justin Abdelkader to a shoulder injury, per MLive’s Ansar Khan. The silver lining is that head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t think Abdelkader’s injury is significant, but any amount of time he’s absent for will be felt by the team. While he might not be one of Detroit’s biggest names, he certainly has become an important contributor.

He likely sustained the injury due to this big hit from Luca Sbisa:

Detroit will play against Florida on Tuesday. The Canucks are in the early stages of a seven-game road trip that will take them to Washington next.