The Detroit Red Wings' path to another Central Division title and Presidents' Trophy appears to be a very easy one.
Detroit begins the final week of the regular season on Sunday when it faces the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Red Wings (47-19-12) host the Blue Jackets on Tuesday before opening opens a season-ending home-and-home series Thursday at Chicago. Detroit plays the Blackhawks Saturday to wrap up the regular season.
Over the past two seasons, the Red Wings are 23-2-3 against Columbus and Chicago. Nashville, which is one point behind Detroit entering play Sunday, closes its season with matchups versus Chicago, St. Louis and Colorado.
The Red Wings are tied with Anaheim atop the West with 106 points, and have a game in hand on both the Ducks and Predators.
Detroit hopes to continue their winning ways down the stretch and get closer to its sixth straight division crown and third consecutive Presidents' Trophy, given to the team with the most points in the NHL. The Red Wings could become the first team to finish first in the overall standings in three consecutive seasons since Montreal from 1976-78.
The Presidents' Trophy was first awarded in 1985-86 and Detroit has claimed it a league-leading five times. The Red Wings and Ducks are a point behind league-leading Buffalo.
Detroit, though, squandered a three-goal third-period lead and lost 4-3 in a shootout to Dallas on Friday. Dominik Hasek allowed the lone shootout goal to Dallas' Sergei Zubov after surrendering three goals in a 6:17 span late in the third.
"We made so many turnovers in the third period," Hasek said. "We just could dump the puck and play a smart game when you're up 3-1 and we were making turnover after turnover."
Detroit may have suffered a greater loss, as defenseman Niklas Kronwall is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a broken bone near the lower end of his spine when was checked into the boards by Joel Lundqvist in the opening minute of the game. Kronwall, who has 22 points, already has had a broken leg and major knee surgery in his three-season career.
The Red Wings also are expected to be without Nicklas Lidstrom, the team's top scoring defenseman with 61 points, due to a lower back strain. He's day-to-day. Left wing Henrik Zetterberg, though, may return after being sidelined since Feb. 24 with a back injury.
Detroit has three losses in its last five games - all by shootout, one of which was a 2-1 defeat to Columbus (32-39-7) on March 22 when former Red Wings star Sergei Federov scored in the sixth round of the shootout.
The Blue Jackets, who defeated the Wings 3-1 on Jan. 19, will try to win three straight from them for the first time in franchise history.
Following a four-game winning streak, Columbus lost its second in a row after falling 3-1 to Chicago on Friday. Jason Chimera scored fro the Blue Jackets midway through the second period.
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