The Vancouver Canucks have been competitive during a daunting first week of the season. However, that's not enough to satisfy a team that is determined to make a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
After falling short in their last contest, the Canucks face another stiff challenge when they continue their four-game trip Thursday night against the unbeaten Detroit Red Wings.
It's been anything but easy for the reigning Western Conference champion Canucks (1-1-1), who have played three straight one-goal games. Vancouver opened with a 4-3 shootout home loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday then won 3-2 at Columbus on Monday.
The Canucks fought back from an early two-goal deficit to tie Philadelphia in the third period Wednesday before falling 5-4 to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Despite its subpar start, Vancouver has played like a club that remains one of the favorites to reach the Cup finals for the second straight season. However, the Canucks believe they have yet to put forth a complete effort.
"We want to be playing our best game right now, we're not happy with the way things are going," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "We are good enough to play a full 60 minutes. We are not doing that. When we do play, you see what happens out there."
The challenge only gets tougher Thursday against Detroit (2-0-0), a perennial Cup contender which has scored eight goals in its first two games. Though the teams split their four meetings in 2010-11, the Canucks earned a point in each contest. The final three were decided by one goal, with one ending in overtime and another in a shootout.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who combined for six goals and seven assists versus Detroit last season, each had a goal with an assist Wednesday. The twins have five points apiece through the first three games.
Roberto Luongo stopped 22 shots against the Flyers. He posted a 2.66 goals-against average in four games versus the Red Wings last season.
Detroit forward Pavel Datsyuk, who has six goals with nine assists in his last 15 games against Vancouver, recorded one of each in a 3-0 win at Colorado on Saturday.
The Red Wings are looking to start 3-0 for the first since 2005-06, Mike Babcock's first season as coach.
"We think that we have a good team," center Henrik Zetterberg told the Red Wings' official website. "We know that we'll be there again in the end, and that's our goal. We really think that we can do it."
Zetterberg, who scored his first goal Saturday, had two with three assists against the Canucks in 2010-11.
Ty Conklin made 29 saves against the Avalanche in the first start of his second stint with the Red Wings, but starter Jimmy Howard could be back in net after he stopped 29 shots in a 5-3 season-opening win over Ottawa on Friday.
Howard started all four games versus Vancouver last season, posting a 3.17 GAA.
Conklin, who went 25-11-2 with a 2.51 GAA for Detroit in 2008-09, has allowed three goals in each of his last two starts - both losses - against the Canucks.