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Magic number down to five for Red Wings

Though New Jersey Devils are making some noise with season heading into final week

Monday, 04.7.2014 / 6:19 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Magic number down to five for Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk return to the Red Wings' lineup last Friday after battle a knee injury since January. The Russian superstar logged nearly 18 minutes of ice time and won 11-of-13 face-offs. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – The magic number is five but the Red Wings don’t want to lose sight of their mission.

“We’ve got a game tomorrow is all I know and we have to find a way to win a game,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ve done a lot of good things this season. We’ve had a lot of fun doing it. The kids have really grown. If you want to focus on the injuries you can do that, but we’ve chosen not to do that. We feel we’ve gotten better as a team. The reality is that’s going to be measured is what happens over these last four games.”

The Red Wings’ last four games – against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Carolina and St. Louis – are all potential landmines in a six-day span that leaves little room for error. With eight points available and a four-point lead over New Jersey, the Red Wings can’t afford to stumble now.

With four games left themselves, the Devils, who have picked up points in eight of their past nine games, have turned the corner and are heading in the opposite direct from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who self-destructed in the past month.

New Jersey has 84 points, which is four behind Detroit and three behind Columbus for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“I’m not surprised,” said Gustav Nyquist when asked about the resurgent Devils. “I think they’re a great team and we’ve had some great battles against them all year. They’re a tough team to play. They play real structured and they have some real good players. So it’s not surprising to see at all, and I’m sure they’re going to keep winning down the stretch.”

Any combination of five points gained by the Red Wings or five points squandered by the New Jersey Devils will lift Detroit to its 23rd straight playoff appearance. Detroit and New Jersey each have four games remaining before Sunday’s last day of the regular season, but it appears that the Devils have a less strenuous path with three home games remaining, beginning tonight against Calgary.

Still, the Red Wings were feeling pretty confident following Monday’s practice at Joe Louis Arena that they will be getting ready for a first-round playoff series next week.

“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” forward Drew Miller said. “We have to win some games. Our mindset is to continue playing well and make the playoffs. That’s our goal and we want to continue playing well when we get in the playoffs.”

But first things first, it’s important that the Red Wings take care of business at First Niagara Center on Tuesday against a Sabres team that played Detroit tight in three games this season, including last Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

“I don’t look at it like that,” Babcock said. “We’re playing an NHL team tomorrow, they’re probably getting three guys back, they’re going to want to win. They’re playing in front of their home crowd. We just need to be detail orientated. We thought we had tons of chances that last time we played and we didn’t score so the game in the end was close. It’ll probably be a tighter checking game than last time. We just have to find a way to get one more than they do.”

The Sabres will have Marcus Foligno back in the lineup, while Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell and Christian Ehrhoff are expected to be game-time decisions.

For the Red Wings, Daniel Alfredsson and Pavel Datsyuk managed to skate through back-to-back games over the weekend unscathed. Both veterans are back from injuries but expect to play in the upcoming back-to-back contests at Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

“I feel fine, so it’s basically no issues and I’m happy with the way I felt yesterday after back-to-back games,” said Alfredsson, who missed one game last week with a sore lower back. “And we’ve got it coming up against Tuesday and Wednesday, so it’s nice to have two days in between it to energize again.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 51 38 9 4 166 114 80
2 FLA 53 31 16 6 143 118 68
3 NYR 53 30 18 5 150 135 65
4 TBL 52 29 19 4 138 123 62
5 BOS 52 28 18 6 151 137 62
6 DET 53 27 18 8 133 131 62
7 PIT 52 27 18 7 138 132 61
8 NYI 51 27 18 6 143 127 60
9 NJD 54 26 21 7 120 122 59
10 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
11 MTL 54 26 24 4 143 143 56
12 OTT 54 25 23 6 153 166 56
13 PHI 51 23 19 9 121 133 55
14 BUF 53 21 26 6 120 139 48
15 TOR 51 19 23 9 117 140 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 52 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 53 9 27 3 36
T. Tatar 52 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 53 14 15 -2 29
P. Datsyuk 38 8 20 12 28
J. Abdelkader 53 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 39 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 49 6 8 12 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 20 10 4 .933 1.97
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89