The Red Wings are battling for the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference down the stretch, which would assure them home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But does it really matter? Not if the regular season is any indication.

After a strong 10-1-2 start at Joe Louis Arena this season, the Wings have been inexplicably lethargic on too many nights at home. They are 10-11-3 at home since Dec. 1 and already are assured of finishing with their fewest wins and most losses at home since 1996-97 (20-12-9), the year they ended a 42-year Stanley Cup championship drought.

Coach Mike Babcock is at a loss to explain his team’s struggles at home compared to the road (24-10-4). The Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, fourth game of their current five-game homestand.

“A number of years in a row we’ve been dominant at home,” Babcock said. “We got off to a good start at home and haven’t been as good, for whatever reason. I don’t know if that’s match-ups, I don’t know if we’re just not energized as much or maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves.”

RED WINGS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 2: The Wings played a strong defensive game on a festive night at Joe Louis Arena, as fans from both sides cheered their team in this rare matchup of Original Six rivals. More importantly, goaltender Jimmy Howard appears to have avoided a significant injury when Joffrey Lupul fell on top of him at 6:11 of the third period. Howard left the game with an undisclosed upper-body injury and scheduled to have an MRI. But general manager Ken Holland said the injury does not appear to be significant and Howard is day-to-day. Lupul scored on that play to tie it, but Jiri Hudler blasted a shot past James Reimer just 38 seconds later to snap the tie. It stood as the winning goal. Joey MacDonald stopped all seven shots he faced in relief of Howard.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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