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The Detroit Red Wings are facing a dilemma every team would love to have. On Thursday night, they can either start a future Hall of Fame goaltender with two straight shutouts, or a well-rested one with the league's best goals-against average.
Whoever plays, the league-leading Red Wings hope to win their fifth straight game when they host the Minnesota Wild, a team they have dominated this season.
Detroit (33-8-3) has alternated goaltenders in its past 11 games, and would appear to be Chris Osgood's turn to start. But Dominik Hasek has allowed just one goal in his last three starts, including shutouts in the last two. The six-time Vezina Trophy winner turned aside 19 shots for his 79th career shutout in a 1-0 win over Colorado on Tuesday.
Hasek has already defeated Minnesota (23-17-2) twice this season, allowing just one goal in two games. He's 9-0-0 with two ties and a 0.99 GAA all-time against the Wild and has allowed just five goals against them in the past eight games.
Osgood, meanwhile, hasn't won in his last six starts against Minnesota, but he's hardly been struggling. He has allowed just four total goals in his last four games - all wins - and has a 1.68 GAA. Osgood is 19-2-1 this season and was rewarded with a three-year contract extension on Wednesday, keeping him in Detroit through the 2010-11 season.
"He is so confident right now," center Kris Draper told the Red Wings' official Web site. "It doesn't matter where we play, who we play, he believes that he can go in and win that hockey game."
Detroit has allowed just two goals during its current four-game winning streak, and just nine in its last nine games, which includes eight wins.
No one has scored more than two goals in a game against Detroit in the last nine, and only once in those games have the Red Wings allowed 25 or more shots. Colorado managed just 19 on Tuesday.
"To get a shutout, of course everybody must play well," Hasek said. "And when you hold the other team under 20 shots, it's obvious that you have played well."
Zetterberg had a hat trick against the Wild in Detroit's 5-0 home win on Dec. 7. The Red Wings also beat the Wild 4-1 in Minnesota on Dec. 22, and have outshot the Wild 85-38 in the two games. They are 7-0-1 in their last eight against Minnesota.
The Wild visit Joe Louis Arena - where the Red Wings are a league-best 18-3-1 - having lost two straight and three of four. They've allowed three or more goals in each of their last five games, including four with goalie Niklas Backstrom in net.
Backstrom stopped 27 shots in a 3-1 loss at Dallas on Monday, when Minnesota mustered just 19 shots.
"We can't ask the goalie to do it all, but when games are tight, you need a huge save to keep you in the game," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We've got to play a little better, maybe get a goal from a defenseman or a big save at the right time. We need a little help."
Mark Parrish scored for the Wild, giving him goals in four straight games. He has only two goals in 17 career games against the Red Wings.