Remember the opener Jan. 19 — a humbling 6-0 loss to the Blues that had Red Wings fans worried. "I'm still trying to forget that game," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We didn't do anything right. We weren't in the game. But we've moved in the right direction since then, playing good hockey and sticking to the game plan."

Indeed, they have.

At the halfway point of this lockout-shortened season, the Red Wings have 28 points. Mike Babcock would have liked 30 — and hoped for 34.

But considering the injuries (149 man-games lost) and the lineup overhaul, things could have been worse.

"We still think we've done a lot of good stuff," Babcock said. "We're getting better defensively, playing harder as a group, and we're more structured and organized."

One of the key developments has been the maturation of young players, who stepped in nicely when injuries hit.

"It took a little bit to get used to all the new faces in the lineup," Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "Now, guys are comfortable playing with each other."