So, how good are the Red Wings?

In a winter of concern about continuing the 21-season streak of playoff appearances for the Wings, they sometimes seem up and sometimes down.

But around the dressing room after the hard-fought, 2-1 victory over an Oilers team full of young stars, the Red Wings seemed confident that their approach to gradual improvement, game-by-game, is getting them to the point of playing at the level they expect of themselves.

After losing important pieces of the roster in the offseason — and amid a flurry of injuries, especially along the blue line where they can least afford it — it has not been easy.

Their often and firmly-stated intention is being better one game, and even better the next.

"It's step-by-step," said Pavel Datsyuk, who had a goal and an assist against the Oilers. "We are working hard at practice, and you do what you can to improve.

"We get better, but little by little bit."

Asked if he felt, after playing Edmonton, that the team finally "clicked," coach Mike Babcock was dismissive.

"No. It feels like we're a work in progress and we've got to continue to get better," he said.

"I thought we played a good game last game (Thursday, on the road, against the Blues), and we came back and followed it up. But we've got to follow it up tomorrow against a heavy team."