There were two schools of thought afoot inside the Detroit Red Wings locker room as talk of Saturday afternoon’s game in Ottawa against the Senators was entering the discussion.
Coach Derek Lalonde was seeking to dampen the tone.
“It’s no different than we’ve seen with playoff-Cup contender Tampa, playoff-Cup contender New Jersey, playoff-Cup contender Pittsburgh,” Lalonde said of Saturday’s tilt with the Senators. “It’s just another good challenge for us within the division.
“I don’t want to downplay it, but for me it’s just another game vs. a top team in the league that’s proven themselves to be maybe as good as there is on our division.”
Captain Dylan Larkin, though, was ready to ramp up the importance a good showing by his team in Ottawa will be playing in the long-term growth of their squad.
“Absolutely it is,” Larkin answered firmly when asked if there was extra significance attached to Saturday’s game. “You look at the Tampa game. You want to be good in your division. To be a playoff team in your division you have to be good in your division.
“We have guys that have been around and played in big games. They understand that.”
Plenty Of Undertones In Storyline
Certainly, there are a number of undertones at work making this game – albeit only Game 5 of an 82-game season – seem somewhat more important.
The winner will move into at the very least, temporary sole possession of top spot in the Atlantic Division. It’s the return of Red Wings foward Alex DeBrincat to Canada’s capital for the first time since the Senators traded him to Detroit in the summer.
Everyone in the NHL with 8+ points:
— Alex Debrincat
— Elias Pettersson
— Jack Hughes pic.twitter.com/HTnxzaLCuR
— Big Head Hockey (@BigHeadHcky) October 21, 2023
“I’m sure with both starts to our seasons it’s gonna be emotionally charged,” Larkin said. “Alex going back. They’ll be a lot of things.
“We’re both trying to make the playoffs. Neither team has been there in the past couple of years. We’re in the same position and we both want points and to be that team that gets into the playoffs.”
Ottawa & Detroit Are Mirror Images
These teams are virtual mirror images so far this season. Each is 3-1. Ottawa has scored 19 goals and allowed 10. Detroit has scored 19 goals and allowed 11. Both clubs will take the ice Saturday riding three-game winning streaks.
“You look player for player, you look at their roster, their 12 forwards, their six D, who they acquired for their goaltender, and this is a legitimate top team in our league,” Lalonde said of the Senators.
It’s also the team that was turning the lights out on Detroit’s playoff hopes with consecutive lopsided victories in back-to-back games in Ottawa last February. That memory lingers bitterly in the minds of Red Wings players.
“I think so,” Larkin admits. “It was two games we had there. We were playing well at the time and we went in there and they kind of gave it to us physically. They were more emotionally into it.
“There’s no scores to be settled. It’s a new season, we got a new group. But we know, the guys who were there last year, what it’s like to go into that building.”
Berggren Gets Recall From Red Wings
With the breaking news that forward Robby Fabbri is going to be out a month with a lower-body injury, the Red Wings were moving to shore up their depth at the forward position. They were summoning right-winger Jonatan Berggren from the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.
UPDATE: The #RedWings today recalled right wing Jonatan Berggren from the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins under emergency conditions and placed center Robby Fabbri on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 12. pic.twitter.com/JQPPfkZIND
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 20, 2023
Berggren was off to a fast start at GR, collecting 0-3-3 totals through the first two games. He was accounting for 15-13-28 totals in 67 games for Detroit last season.