Three-game losing streaks are very rare for the Detroit Red Wings. One of the few things seen even less is one of their goaltenders failing to finish a game he started.
The league-leading Red Wings look to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss Thursday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks.
While every team experiences slumps at some point during an 82-game season, the Red Wings appeared to be almost immune to them. Before their current 0-2-1 skid, they had picked up at least one point in 36 of 44 games this season.
Detroit (33-10-4) had a four-game win streak snapped with a 6-5 shootout loss to Minnesota on Jan. 10 and followed that with a 3-2 defeat at Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa on Saturday.
Hoping to avoid matching their longest skid of the season, the Red Wings instead gave up the game's first four goals in a 5-1 defeat to visiting Atlanta on Tuesday.
Nicklas Kronwall scored in the third period for Detroit, which also lost three in a row Nov. 11-17. The Red Wings last dropped four straight from March 17-24.
"The key is to make sure we don't elongate this thing," Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood told the team's official Web site. "We don't want to start thinking about the bad bounces and think that they'll happen."
One of Detroit's many strengths is the NHL's best goaltending tandem. Osgood is 19-3-2 with a league-best 1.95 goals-against average while Dominik Hasek is 14-7-2 with a 2.14 GAA and three shutouts.
Osgood, though, was pulled for the first time this season on Tuesday after allowing four goals on 17 shots.
It was the first time since Hasek rejoined Detroit in 2006 that he entered a game in relief. Coach Mike Babcock is usually hesitant to bring the 42-year-old Hasek off the bench cold because of his history of groin injuries.
"Mike told me after the third goal to get ready, so I stretched a little bit," Hasek said. "I stretched for about five minutes. I felt comfortable going in."
Babcock has alternated his goalies most of this season so Hasek was in line to start Thursday regardless of Tuesday's outcome. Hasek had shutouts in back-to-back starts before he gave up three goals on 32 shots in Saturday's loss.
Despite a wealth of offensive talent, the Red Wings are 3-for-30 on the power play over the last 10 games. Making that lack of production worse is a penalty-killing unit that has allowed five goals in the past nine short-handed situations.
This will be the final stop on a three-game road trip for the Canucks (25-17-4), losers of three of four overall and four of five on the road.
Daniel Sedin and Kris Beech had goals in Vancouver's 3-2 loss Tuesday at Columbus.
The Canucks dropped to 0-14-1 when trailing after two periods.
"We haven't had one comeback all year. We weren't able to muster one tonight," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We are very good when we have the lead, but mental toughness is being able to push through and make a push in the third."
The Red Wings posted 3-2 victories against the Canucks on Oct. 24 and 28. Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom had three goals in those two games.
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