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Five-Game Road Trip Can Make or Break Red Wings’ Playoff Hopes

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Dylan Larkin, Red Wings

Away games have not been the road to success for the Detroit Red Wings for the past six seasons. The last time the Red Wings finished a season with a winning record Lucas Raymond was 14 and Derek Lalonde was coaching the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL. It was 2015-16. And a 19-17-5 road record helped the Red Wings make the playoffs that season.

Since then, the Red Wings have won 84 of their last 250 road games.

But the Red Wings have been better on the road this season. They own a 9-9-5 road mark heading into Monday’s road game against the Vancouver Canucks. That’s the first of a five-game road trip. After Vancouver, the Red Wings play Edmonton and Calgary on Wednesday and Thursday and then head for Seattle for a Saturday meeting with the Kraken. The trip ends with a Tuesday game at Washington.

“We just need to really bring it against Vancouver again and start the road trip out on the right foot and start to get three, four, five wins in a row,” Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin said.

The Red Wings are seven points out of a playoff spot with with 31 games remaining. It’s not an easy task to make up that much ground, but other teams have cracked the door for the Red Wings. The Penguins currently own the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But Pittsburgh lost last night 6-0 to the Los Angeles Kings and the team has been inconsistent of late. The Washington Capitals are one point ahead of Pittsburgh for the first wildcard spot.

Red Wings Find Consistency

Right now, there are seven teams competing for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference and none of those teams have won more than five times in the past 10 games.

The Red Wings do have a game in hand against the Penguins and three against Washington.

More importantly, the Red Wings have confidence brewing after two strong home wins against the Calgary Flames and Canucks

“I think we’ve stayed disciplined and we’ve managed pucks,” Larkin said. “Even for home, just when we’re successful we’re sacrificing our bodies, we’re getting in lanes and we’re playing with intensity. We’ve done that the past three nights. Edmonton, it’s going to go that way sometimes but the last two wins have been huge, huge for our confidence.”

The Red Wings are 5-3 in their past eight games and have given up two or fewer goals in six of those games. They seem to have discovered some consistency.

“We’re sacrificing the body,” Larkin said, “We’re playing with intensity, we’re dialed in on our details, we’re managing the puck and playing together, playing our structure. That’s when we’re really good. I think they’re very cliché things but that’s what makes us successful, and we have to do those things, especially in road games.”

Larkin Drives the Bus

Larkin seems to be setting the tone, with three goals and five points in the past three games.

“He’s gotta,” Lalonde said. “He’s our go-to guy for us. We’re challenged to create offense. He plays as our No. 1 center. He’s on our power play, he’s on our penalty kill.”

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Larkin played about 22 minutes against Vancouver Saturday.

“When we treat him like that, he needs to drive us like that,” Lalonde said.

This road trip may reveal whether or not the Red Wings are in a playoff race. This is the team’s first five-game road trip. The Red Wings had two four-game road trips earlier this season and went 2-1-1 in both of them.

Detroit is three games over .500 (23-20-8) and need to come out of this trip four or five games over .500 to improve their odds of making the playoffs. To close on Pittsburgh, the Red Wings probably need seven out of 10 possible points. Detroit has two injuries: Raymond and Jake Walman are both day-to-day with undisclosed injuries.

“We’re a team we’ve talked about where we’re flirting with .500 most of the year,” Lalonde said. “We’ve been unable to put a big streak together. I understand that’s the way we are built, what we are. We’ve have to be good every night to win. The top teams in our league can have an off night and win. That’s not us. This just gives us an opportunity to build off something. This will be a really tough road trip. Four good teams, two we just beat.”