Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

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Red Wings close in on record home winning streak

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Back on home ice -- where they have been unbeatable for three months -- the Detroit Red Wings closed in on an NHL record. Drew Miller and Henrik Zetterberg scored in the third period, and the Red Wings extended their home winning streak to 18 games with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The Red Wings overcame two more goals by Edmonton's Sam Gagner to move within two wins of the NHL record of 20 straight home victories, set by the Boston Bruins during the 1929-30 season and matched by Philadelphia in 1976. The Bruins also won 19 in a row in Boston during the 1970-71 season. "The home win streak is really unique," Miller said. "I don't think we go into it really trying to say, Hey, let's do it to get this streak.' I think we're just trying to establish our game at home and play night in and night out the way that we should play." Detroit will either break the record or have its streak snapped on this homestand. Wednesday's game was the first of six in a row at home for the Red Wings -- following a five-game trip. "People that don't travel with us and just watch home games have no idea how hard it is to come back and what a grind it is," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "This game is always a tough one to win. We knew that coming in. We're going to give our team a day off (Thursday). Ideally, we'll be freshened up and ready to go by the next one." The Red Wings host Anaheim on Friday night. Detroit hasn't lost at home since Nov. 3 against Calgary. Johan Franzen and Cory Emmerton also scored for Detroit, but Gagner answered with a pair of goals to tie the game. He has eight goals and six assists in four games. After Gagner's power-play goal made it 2-2 with 11:37 remaining, Miller scored his 11th of the season amid a scramble in front. After Justin Abdelkader's shot from the slot was stopped by Nikolai Khabibulin, the Edmonton goalie appeared to think he had the puck frozen. But it was behind him, sitting tantalizingly in the crease, and Miller was able to poke it in the net. "It was one of those right place at the right time. We'll definitely take it," Miller said. "I score some unnatural goals, I guess. That's how I've always scored throughout my whole career, so it's nothing new to me." Zetterberg added an insurance goal with 5:16 to play, beating Khabibulin from a tough angle to the goalie's right. Franzen opened the scoring on a power play, positioning himself in front of Khabibulin and redirecting Ian White's shot from the point with 6:42 remaining in the first period. It was Franzen's 21st goal of the season. Emmerton made it 2-0 early in the second, scoring on a backhander from in front after Abdelkader tried to jam the puck past Khabibulin. Detroit outshot the Oilers 20-9 through two periods but led only 2-1 thanks to Gagner's breakaway goal. It appeared Edmonton's Ben Eager might fight Jonathan Ericsson in front of the benches, but when Gagner took a lead pass and cruised alone into the Detroit zone, Eager spun away to join his teammate on the rush. Gagner has had at least one point in five straight games, including his four-goal, four-assist effort against Chicago on Thursday. He scored again in the third period to tie the game and give himself 13 goals this season. "Obviously, it feels good to produce," Gagner said. "It feels better to win." Joey MacDonald made 15 saves for Detroit, earning his first win of the season in only his third appearance. Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said regular starter Jimmy Howard (broken finger) is unlikely to be back this weekend. NOTES: Edmonton coach Tom Renney was back behind the bench after missing Monday's game at Toronto because he was struck in the head by a puck during a morning skate. The cut required stitches and left Renney with headaches. ... Detroit is 21-2-1 at home this season. ... Red Wings F Danny Cleary, who assisted on Emmerton's goal, left the game in the second period because of an undisclosed lower body injury and didn't return. ... The Red Wings have two shootout wins during their home streak.

Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

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Dominique Wilkins reflects on his rivalry with Larry Bird

During our series discussing the 1986 Boston Celtics, we have sat down with many players from that championship, along with members of the media that were close to the team.

This week features a few of the opponents that were very familiar with the 1980’s Celtics  - Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, former Celtics coach (and Hawk) Doc Rivers, and Lakers great James Worthy.

Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

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Bogaerts continues to battle through struggles with bat

BOSTON -- Early in 2016 praises were sung around the league that Xander Bogaerts was the best hitter in baseball.

Rightfully so. For a good portion of the season he led the league in both batting average and hits. But between Mookie Betts’ ascension and Bogaerts’ drop in average from .331 on 7/29 to .306 after Monday night’s game, he’s taken a back seat.

But the Red Sox shortstop’s month-long dry spell hasn’t been a straight decline. Although he was held hitless Monday, Bogaerts went 6-for-13 (.462) against Kansas City.

In fact, the 23-year-old doesn’t even consider the recent month of struggles the worst stretch of his career.

“2014 probably,” Bogaerts said, “yeah I had a terrible, terrible few months -- probably three months.”

That was of course the season a lot came into question surrounding the now All-Star shortstop, so he was pretty spot on. In 2014 Bogaerts went from hitting .304 through 5/31, to .248 by the end of June, .244 after his last game in July, all the way down to .224 by the last day of August.

Bogaerts would hit .313 that September and finish with a .240 average -- but more importantly, an appreciation of what he’d experienced.

“That definitely helped me become a better person, a better player -- and understanding from that and learning,” Bogaerts said.

From that experience, he gained a better understanding of the importance of maintaining a consistent day-to-day routine.

“That has to stay the same,” Bogaerts said without question in his voice. “The league adjusted, they adjusted to me. It kind of took a longer time to adjust to them. They’ve just been pitching me so differently compared to other years.”

Bogaerts has had the point reinforced to him throughout, with Red Sox assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez serving as one voice of reinforcement.

“When you have a routine from the mental side, physical side, when you struggle that’s when you really need that,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been so good with his daily preparation, it doesn’t matter the result of the game. He can always go to something that feels comfortable.”

“He’s been so comfortable and confident with his daily routine and preparation that it allows him -- when he doesn’t get the results he wants in the game -- to have some peace knowing that the next day, we’re going to go back to doing that again.”

It’s clear Bogaerts needs to maintain his daily routine to help work through slumps -- and maintain hot streaks -- but Rodriguez made it clear, consistent preparation from a hitter doesn’t magically cure every problem.

“That doesn’t mean that because you stick with the routine you’re going to have results,” Rodriguez said. “What it means is, [because] you know and believe in that routine that you know you’re going to get out of it.”

Which means in addition to sticking to his normal routine, Bogaerts also had to identify flaws elsewhere in order work through his problems. He came to realize the problem was more mechanically based than mental -- given he’d done everything to address that.

“They pitched me differently, and some stuff I wanted to do with the ball I couldn’t do,” Bogaerts said. “I just continued doing it until I had to make the adjustment back.”

Bogaerts isn’t fully out of the dark, but he’s taken steps in the right direction of late -- and is nowhere near the skid he experienced in 2014. He and Rodriguez fully believe the All-Star’s ability to maintain a clear mind will carry him through whatever troubles he’s presented with the rest of the way.

“The more stuff you have in you’re head is probably not going to help your chances,” Bogaerts explained, “so have a clear mind -- but also have the trust in your swing that you’re going to put a good swing on [the pitch] regardless of whatever the count is.”

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.