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Wings confident as they push for playoffs

Tuesday, 03.9.2010 / 10:42 AM ET / News
By Larry Lage  - Sports Editor | The Associated Press
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Wings confident as they push for playoffs

DETROIT -- For two decades, the Red Wings went into the last month of the regular season jockeying for one of the top spots in the playoffs.

The Red Wings have been in 18 straight postseasons - the longest streak in sports - and 17 in a row as a team seeded high enough to have home-ice advantage for at least a round.

Now, they're simply vying to get in.

Detroit would have been the eighth-seeded team in the Western Conference if the NHL season ended Wednesday night. But its standing is tenuous, with five teams - Dallas, Calgary, Anaheim, St. Louis and Minnesota - all within four points of Detroit.

The Red Wings came out of the Olympic break with a win at Colorado, then took a step back with a 6-3 loss Wednesday night at home against Vancouver.

"It was a discouraging effort for our team," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "This didn't look very good and doesn't give you much sign of hope."

Captain Nicklas Lidstrom was much more optimistic about the team's chances of being among the top eight in the West on April 11, when the regular season ends.

"I'm real confident in our chances," Lidstrom said. "As long as you get in, you've got a chance to do anything in the NHL playoffs. We've seen that upsets do happen because from top to bottom, teams are so close."

Lidstrom pointed to getting previously banged-up players - Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Andreas Lilja, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula - back in the lineup as a sign of hope.

Detroit was expected to endure a rebuilding season after losing Marian Hossa and other players who combined to score 88 goals last season. The storied franchise, however, then lost a handful of other players to injuries, making a tough task of staying competitive even more daunting.

Babcock said the "best team we dressed all year" played on Monday night at Colorado - the 62nd game of the season.

"We have the makings of a real good team," Babcock said. "Now, we have to play like a real good team each and every night to get ourselves into the tournament."

Getting back to full strength has created competition to just get in the lineup for some players and for others, ice time in 5-on-5 and power-play situations has to be earned on a daily basis.

"Hunger is wonderful thing," he said.

Filppula, Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi will be rotated into two spots with one of them sitting on the bench on Henrik Zetterberg's power-play unit.

"If your group does real good, you have a chance to go back in," Babcock said.

Detroit's injury woes gave players such as Darren Helm and Drew Miller chances to play that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Babcock acknowledged the importance in role players gaining experience that might help the Red Wings make their push for a spot in the playoffs, but he wanted to make one point clear.

"It's about our high-end guys," Babcock said. "It's time for them to step up."

Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg are both in danger of having their worst seasons offensively since the 2003-04 season in part because their surrounding cast is not as talented as it has been in years. Lidstrom, who has been named the NHL's top defenseman six times, seems to have slipped from great to good as he nears his 40th birthday.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard has often been solid, keeping Chris Osgood on the bench, but has been prone to bad performances like the one that got him pulled against the Canucks.

"Our leadership is second to none and that's why we didn't panic when things didn't look so good and that's why we're in a position to make a push now," Howard said. "The rest during the Olympics couldn't have come at a better time for some guys and for other guys, the Olympics gave them some more playing time to come back from their injuries."

After beating the Red Wings, Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo sounded quite certain that he expects them to be in their usual spot - in the playoffs - next month.

"They'll be fine," Luongo said. "I have no doubt they'll be in the playoffs. They're getting healthy, they're a well-coached team and they've been getting good goaltending."




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


H. Zetterberg 77 17 49 -6 66
P. Datsyuk 63 26 39 12 65
T. Tatar 82 29 27 6 56
G. Nyquist 82 27 27 -11 54
J. Abdelkader 71 23 21 3 44
N. Kronwall 80 9 35 -4 44
R. Sheahan 79 13 23 -3 36
D. Helm 75 15 18 7 33
D. DeKeyser 80 2 29 11 31
S. Weiss 52 9 16 -2 25
J. Howard 23 13 11 .910 2.44
P. Mrazek 16 9 2 .918 2.38 is the official Web site of the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit Red Wings and are trademarks of the Detroit Red Wings. NHL, the NHL Shield and the word mark NHL Winter Classic are registered trademarks and Original Six is a trademark of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.
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