The Detroit Red Wings want to play meaningful games the rest of the way. They'll have to put together a significant winning streak to make that happen.
The Red Wings return from the All-Star break to host the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Detroit hasn't won more than two games in a row since a four-game streak in November.
"I think for a lot of the year we've been trending in the right direction," defenseman Jake Walman said. "I just think we need to keep the foot on the gas. We all got to reset. We've played top teams and we're going to play a lot of top teams in the second half. It'll be exciting.
"Hopefully, we can compete and make a push."
Prior to the break, the Red Wings recorded overtime victories against San Jose and Montreal, then got shut out 2-0 by the New York Islanders.
"You can see how we're building. I don't mind how we're playing," coach Derek Lalonde said. "We won two of the last three before the break, (and) gave ourselves a chance (against the Islanders)."
Lalonde also doesn't mind that his team is healthier than it's been at any point in the season. Forward Filip Zadina just completed a two-game conditioning stint with AHL affiliate Grand Rapids and could return on Tuesday. Zadina has been out since Nov. 5 due to a broken foot.
"It's been a tough year for keeping everyone healthy," forward Robby Fabbri said. "But everyone is back, and it adds to a healthy competition, and we need that depth."
The matchup against the Oilers begins a three-game homestand. Detroit will need to take care of home ice, as seven of its final nine games this month are on the road.
The Oilers were rolling along prior to the break, going 7-0-1 in their last eight games. They've been off since a 7-3 home victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 28.
Edmonton is looking like the team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season.
"We battled through some things last year and we've done that this year as well," Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "We had a lot of games this year where we were up and we kind of let teams back into it -- we started to lose a few close ones and we kind of talked among our group and wanted to change some things. I think we've done a lot better job of that lately."
Edmonton has four players with 60 or more points, led by superstar Connor McDavid (41 goals, 51 assists). Its offense is always dangerous, but the defense has been stingier during the hot streak. The Oilers haven't given up more than three goals in a game during that eight-game surge.
"Ultimately it comes down to the execution level of our players and wanting to play the game the right way," coach Jay Woodcroft said. "We feel that we were scoring enough goals to win, (but) we just had to take care of the other side of the puck. I don't think we're there yet, but we're making strides and we're starting to get healthy again."
The Oilers begin their post-All-Star break schedule with a four-game road trip, as they'll also make stops in Philadelphia, Ottawa and Montreal before returning home for a rematch with the Red Wings on Feb. 15.
--Field Level Media