DETROIT – Time is running out for the injury-depleted Red Wings, who currently own the longest consecutive postseason streak in North American team sports.
There are five weeks left to the regular-season, which, for the Red Wings concludes April 13 in St. Louis. The Red Wings begin this week in the thick of a playoff race with 10 Eastern Conference teams separated by just 11 points as they jostle for six berths.
“The hour glass is getting smaller and smaller here by the day,” goalie Jimmy Howard said after the Wings suffered a 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon. “We better start stringing some games along rather than playing one and taking one off.”
Sunday’s loss was Detroit’s eighth shutout – the second to the Rangers – this season. The loss was beyond disappointing for the Red Wings, who were coming off an offensive explosion in a 7-4 home win over New Jersey last Friday.
“I thought that was our worst game probably since the first of January. I didn’t think we were very good,” coach Mike Babcock said. “You got to get yourself ready to compete, as a group we weren’t good enough. As the coach of the group you got to look at yourself, this was unacceptable today.”
The Red Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for 22 straight seasons but with 18 games left in the final 35 days of the league schedule wins are of the essence and they know it.
“We know the situation,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “We know where we’re at and we should know what’s at stake every night.”
This week’s positive sign for the Red Wings is that they’re 3-0-0 against the trio of teams – Columbus, Edmonton and Chicago – that they’ll face in the next seven days.
The Wings should also learn the status of centers Darren Helm (concussion) and Stephen Weiss (groin) this week. In the meantime, the kid line – Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco – will continue to play a pivotal role.
With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:
TUESDAY – at COLUMBUS (33-26-5): Tuesday marks the second of three meetings between the former Central Division rivals, and the first of two in Columbus. Detroit defeated Columbus 2-1 at The Joe on Oct. 15. … The Blue Jackets are tied for the fourth best power play at home (22.7 percent), while Detroit brings the league’s fourth best road penalty kill (85 percent) to Nationwide Arena. … The Wings have struggled to seal victories this season, allowing 22 goals in the final minute of a period in 19 games, which may not bode well against a Columbus team that ranks seventh in the NHL with third period goals (64). … The Jackets have five players on pace to score 20-plus goals this season, including Ryan Johansen, Artem Anisimov, R.J. Umberger, Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno. Columbus is 11-3-1 when Umberger scores and 20-3-1 when Atkinson records a point this season. … Johansen leads with Blue Jackets with 48 points, earning a team-high 24 goals. … Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has gone 3-1-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his past four starts, and made 28 saves in a 1-0 shutout over Nashville last Saturday – his first shutout since Jan. 10.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Anisimov has been on a roll since the end of the Olympic break, recording six goals and seven points in Columbus’ last six games. The center has scored 19 goals in his second season with the Blue Jackets, exceeding his previous career high dating back to 2010-11 when he was with the Rangers. The 25-year-old’s offensive contributions were absent most of the season as Anisimov netted 13 goals through his first 57 games. He’s now on pace to finish this season with 24 goals. – ANDREA NELSON
FRIDAY – vs. EDMONTON (22-34-8): This is the second and last game of the series, and the lone meeting in Detroit. The Wings won the first matchup in Edmonton 5-0 on Nov. 2. Five different players scored in the victory, and Daniel Alfredsson finished with two assists. … The Oilers currently rank last in the Western Conference behind 52 points, but have won seven of their last 11 games. … Only the New York Islanders rank below Edmonton in goals against, as the Oilers have given up an average of 3.22 goals per game. The Oilers are sixth in the NHL in blocked shots (960) and rank second in the league in blocked shots on the road (542) and sixth in road hits (792). … David Perron leads the Oilers with 23 goals, followed by Jordan Eberle (20) and Taylor Hall (20). The three forwards have combined for 148 points this season. Eberle extended his point streak to three games with an assist in Edmonton’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders last Thursday, while Perron’s assist on the game-tying goal marked his third point in six games.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The 22-year-old Hall has earned three points in the Oilers’ last two games, including a two-point performance in Edmonton’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa on March 4. The left wing also notched the game-winning goal in overtime against the Islanders two nights later. Hall has earned a team-high 59 points this season and his 38 assists rank 11th in the league. In his fourth season with the Oilers, Hall has already surpassed his previous career high of 53 points in 2011-12. He also ranks third on the team with 12 power-play points, having earned four goals and eight assists. – ANDREA NELSON
SUNDAY – at CHICAGO (38-13-14): In an unusual spot in the standings, the Blackhawks are chasing St. Louis and Anaheim in the Western Conference. Chicago ran away with the West last season, finishing 11 points ahead of the Ducks. … This is marks the last meeting between the Original Six rivals and the first time at United Center since the Red Wings and Blackhawks went to overtime in Game 7 of last year’s conference semifinals. … Paced by Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks lead the league with a 3.38 goals-for average. Sharp has 29 goals in 64 games, which is just eight goals shy of re-establishing a personal single-season best set in 2007-08. … Chicago has collected points in 51 of 64 games this season and ranks first with a league-low 13 regulation losses.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Former Michigan State defenseman Duncan Keith leads all NHL defensemen and ranks fourth overall with a team-high 47 assists this season. Earlier this season, he posted a career-high eight-game assist streak and has two goals and 23 points in his past 30 games, including season-high three-assist outings against Colorado (Dec. 27) and at New Jersey (Jan. 3). …He is second among league D-men in points (50) only trailing Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson who has 57 points. … According to Elias Sports Bureau, Keith is the fastest Blackhawk in franchise history to reach 40 assists in a single season (46 games played). – BILL ROOSE
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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