For a road-hardened team that played seemingly every other day through most of November, December arrives just in time.
Beginning with tonight's match against the Ducks at Joe Louis Arena, the Wings have four straight games at home, the first time all season they've been at the Joe for more than two consecutive performances. In fact, only four of December's 13 games are on the road.
"It's nice to be at home for a while," Chris Osgood said after Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Boston, which marked only the second time in 14 road games the Wings lost in regulation. "Fans haven't gotten a chance to see us at all. It'll be good to be at home for a long time. We haven't played as good as we should at home, so we want to really solidify ourselves with all these home games we have and start playing like we're capable of playing at home. We've got to start dominating teams like we're accustomed to in our own building."
The Wings, who took Sunday off, are 5-2-2 at home, and improving the first number of the record won't be easy against the Ducks, who play a physically punishing game and are very effective on defense. The only other time the teams met this season, Oct. 29 at Anaheim, the Ducks used their power play to rally from a 3-1 deficit, the Wings used a power play to force a late tie, and then the Ducks won in overtime, 5-4.
"We thought it was a real good game and it could have gone either way," Osgood said. "We really don't look at it is as a loss because it was a great game and we were shorthanded a ton of times in that game. That was a real good game for us."
After today's game, the Wings don't play again until Thursday, against Vancouver. That will allow two straight days of practices, something that has been of short supply lately and something that's needed to keep working on team defense, which has been conspicuously subpar since the season began. The Wings are so good offensively they've been able to build the fourth-best record in the NHL at 15-4-4, but their 3.04 goals-against record puts them in the bottom third of the league.
Of the 70 goals the Wings have allowed this season, 23 have come in losses and overtime losses to top teams ranging from Boston to Montreal to Pittsburgh to San Jose to Anaheim.
"Looking at the teams we've lost to, they all play really well against us," Nicklas Lidstrom said. "They don't give us a whole lot. They try to keep us on the outside. That's something we have to do a better job at."