SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- Sometimes when you're grieving, it helps to stay busy. As the Detroit Red Wings deal with Friday's passing of owner Mike Ilitch, they definitely have a lot to do on the ice this weekend.
The Red Wings face the Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon, less than 24 hours after their 2-1 Saturday evening loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus. It was a game they needed to win, and said they played well enough to win, but didn't.
That's three losses in a row for Detroit, which made the playoffs for the last 25 consecutive seasons -- a streak that is in deep trouble as the games tick away. Still, their coach liked what he saw Saturday.
"We need to replicate a similar effort (Sunday) and find a way to get two points," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after the loss to Columbus. "I do believe if you have an effort like that you're going to find a way to two points and we certainly need it."
It is the Red Wings only game in Minnesota this season and may mark the return of former University of Minnesota star Thomas Vanek, playing his first season in Detroit after the Wild bought him out last summer -- the result of two mostly underachieving seasons.
But Vanek is far from a sure thing after leaving Saturday's game with an apparent ankle injury during the third period versus Columbus. He returned to play two shifts late in the game, but Blashill wouldn't promise that Vanek will be available to face the Wild.
Minnesota is coming off a Friday game in which it was outplayed by the Tampa Bay Lightning for much of the third period, but still managed two points when captain Mikko Koivu score the only goal in a shootout.
The Wild are in firm command atop the Central Division standings and are in the midst of a franchise record eight-game homestand. It was the second consecutive contest that the Wild got past the third period despite being stymied by a hot goalie. They lost in overtime to the Blackhawks earlier in the week.
"When that happens when you're playing, all you do is get more determined," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of the recent run of hot goalies in the opponent's net. "You get more frustrated. You also get ticked off. That's what athletes are."
The Wild-Red Wings matchup also marks the return of Detroit assistant coach John Torchetti to Minnesota for the first time since he left the team last spring. On Valentine's Day a year ago, Torchetti was promoted to interim coach of the Wild when Mike Yeo -- now coach of the St. Louis Blues -- was fired in Minnesota. Torchetti righted the slumping Wild ship and got them to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, where they fell to Dallas in round one.
Torchetti was in the mix to get the permanent Wild coaching gig until Boudreau was let go by Anaheim and became available.