RED WINGS (20-16-7) at CANUCKS (24-13-7)
TV: NHLN-US; CBC, RDS2; FS-D
Last 10: Detroit 3-5-2, Vancouver 5-4-1
Season series: It's the last of three and the final chance for the Vancouver Canucks to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, who came up with dominant 8-2 and 5-2 wins in their first two matchups, both with Roberto Luongo in net. The Red Wings are 17-7-4 against the Canucks in their last 28 meetings.
Big story: Vancouver might want to avoid the sweep and nail down a Stanley Cup Playoff spot, but the Wings need the win more in their effort to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season. A 3-5-2 slump has dropped them from fifth to 10th in the Western Conference, tied with the Dallas Stars and two points behind the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets in eighth. The Canucks have dropped off a bit themselves, losing three of four after a 10-2-0 run, but maintain a four-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the Northwest Division.
Red Wings: It's crunch time for Detroit, which is trying to extend its streak of playoff appearances to 22 but will have to come up with a late-season surge to do to. The Red Wings have been off since Wednesday, when a couple of bizarre third-period goals sent them to a 3-2 road loss against the Calgary Flames despite a 38-17 advantage in shots on goal.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard tried to take the blame for the fluke goals, but coach Mike Babcock wasn't buying.
"After the other night in Calgary someone told me that Howard said, 'That's on me,' '' Babcock said after Friday's practice. "That's not on him, but that's what leadership is. It's on us, that's on coaches, that's on the D, that's on forwards, that's on everybody.''
Canucks: At least they can clinch at home. The Canucks could have wrapped up a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday night, but they ran into a desperate Dallas Stars team in the final game of their five-stop road trip and left with a 5-1 loss. They come home to Rogers Arena after going 2-2-1 on the trip -- they play three of their final four at home, where they've outscored opponents 18-5 while winning six straight. That should give them some time to get into proper playoff form.
"We're 44 games into the season," goalie Cory Schneider said. "Playoffs start in a week and a half. I think we're past the point of learning lessons. I think we need to go out and do it, execute and be the team that we know we can be because I don't think we're showing it for a full 60 minutes."
Who's hot: The Wings have teed off on Luongo, who is 1-2-1 with a 4.57 goals-against average in his last four starts against them. Henrik Zetterberg has three goals and two assists against Vancouver this season, while Justin Abdelkader, Joakim Andersson, Damien Brunner and Dan Cleary have each scored two goals. Brunner can also kick in three assists to go with Pavel Datsyuk's five. … Both Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, had four-game point streaks snapped Thursday.
Injury Report: Detroit forward Mikael Samuelsson (bruised and torn pectoral muscle) skipped the Calgary game but is hoping to be back for this one. Todd Bertuzzi (back) has been out since Feb. 7 but is shooting for a Monday return against the Phoenix Coyotes. … Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa (undisclosed) has missed two games and is questionable. Forward Chris Higgins (knee) has been skating but is more likely to be ready for the playoffs.
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