Wild-Red Wings Preview
Although they lost their latest game, the Minnesota Wild still remain in good shape for a fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Detroit's league-best streak of 24 straight appearances, meanwhile, appears tenuous because the Red Wings struggled to get into a groove this past month.
They still have a chance to move into playoff position, however, if they can beat the visiting Wild on Friday night and get some help.
Minnesota (38-29-11) is five points ahead of Colorado for the Western Conference's final playoff berth with four games remaining. The Wild missed their opportunity to add to that lead Thursday by giving up the go-ahead goal with 3:57 left in a 3-2 defeat to Ottawa and ending a season-high six-game win streak.
"We had a lot of guys that got to up their ante there," interim coach John Torchetti said. "There's no nights off in this league. It's the best league in the world. So, we've got to be ready to battle and I didn't like our battle level."
Detroit (38-28-11) also faltered in the third period in its latest game Tuesday, giving up two goals in the final 14 minutes of a 4-3 defeat in Montreal. The Red Wings rallied after Petr Mrazek allowed two goals in the first 11:25 and was pulled from his second straight start.
Jimmy Howard is expected to stand between the pipes Friday for Detroit, which went 6-8-0 in March. He last faced the Wild on April 4, earning a 3-2 shootout victory in Minnesota.
"We got to make sure we learn from it and go Friday and win a hockey game against Minnesota," coach Jeff Blashill said.
Philadelphia moved two points ahead of the Red Wings for the East's final wild-card spot with a 2-1 shootout win against Washington on Wednesday, but Detroit has a second path to extend its lengthy postseason streak.
The Red Wings are one point behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins are in St. Louis on Friday.
Detroit will try to do its part in that attempt to overtake Boston by earning a season split with the Wild. The Red Wings fell 3-1 in Minnesota on Dec. 28 as Mikko Koivu scored twice in the third period and Devan Dubnyk outdueled Mrazek.
Zach Parise has taken up the scoring load lately for Minnesota with six of his team-leading 25 goals in the past four games. Parise has five goals and two assists in his last four meetings with the Red Wings, and seven goals in as many games in Detroit.
Erik Haula has five goals and six assists in a 10-game point streak that matches a Wild franchise record. He hasn't registered a point in five career matchups against Detroit.
Gustav Nyquist has six goals and one assist in seven lifetime games versus the Wild. He ended an 11-game goal drought Tuesday by tallying one of Detroit's three power-play scores in the second period.
The Red Wings have scored at least once on a man advantage in a season-high six consecutive games, going 9 for 20. The Wild have been one of the league's top penalty-killing clubs in their past 12 games, allowing one goal in 29 times short-handed.