Impressive scoring depth is a big reason the Detroit Red Wings are atop the Western Conference. Even Patrick Eaves is putting the puck in the net.
Eaves will try to continue his sudden offensive surge when the Red Wings attempt to score against the New York Islanders for the first time in nearly four years Friday night.
Detroit (24-9-4) is among the NHL leaders with 128 goals, with a league-high seven players scoring at least 10.
A checker and penalty-killing specialist, Eaves might be the biggest surprise of that group.
The right wing has 11 goals on the season, one shy of his total from all of last season and more than halfway to his career best of 20 set as a rookie with Ottawa in 2005-06.
“He can shoot the puck and he likes to shoot it,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Like anybody who starts scoring, he shoots the puck all the time. Guys that don’t score, they never shoot the puck. They just keep passing and wonder why they don’t score. I’m glad he’s got it figured out.”
Eaves has six goals in seven games. He got his first career hat trick while adding an assist in Wednesday’s 7-3 win over Dallas, helping the Red Wings erase a two-goal, second-period deficit with six unanswered tallies.
He’s also helping the Red Wings compensate for the absences of injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Danny Cleary.
“It feels good on my stick right now,” Eaves said. “Goalies have to make a save when I shoot the puck. It’s fun right now.”
He has two goals in 10 career meetings with the Islanders (10-19-6), but none in the last eight.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit’s leader with 42 points, is also on a scoring surge. The left wing has three goals and six assists during a five-game points streak to match his longest run of the season.
Zetterberg, though, has one goal and one assist in six games against New York.
The Wings haven’t beaten the Islanders – or even scored a goal against them – since a 4-3 win Jan. 30, 2007. They lost 6-0 on Long Island on Jan. 12 after falling 2-0 at home March 27, 2009.
The Islanders are among the worst offensive teams in the league with 79 goals, with only Matt Moulson (11) and John Tavares (10) reaching double digits.
New York, however, is on a 5-1-1 stretch and turned in a superb defensive effort in Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh, halting Sidney Crosby’s scoring streak at 25 games.
“Any time that you beat a team like that – two points is two points – but when you beat a team like that …,” goaltender Rick DiPietro said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but you’ve seen a lot of young guys step up in big roles and play good hockey.”
It’s unclear if DiPietro will get a second consecutive start after making 37 saves through overtime before stopping two more shots in the tiebreaker Wednesday. He had missed the previous five games while dealing with swelling in his surgically repaired left knee.
DiPietro is 1-4-2 with a 3.83 goals-against average on the road.
Dwayne Roloson had 16 saves for the shutout in the lone meeting with Detroit last season, but gave up a season-high seven goals while making 45 saves in a 7-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. He had won his previous three starts while allowing one goal in each.
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