The Detroit Red Wings clinched their sixth straight Central Division title by earning one point their last time out, but one more point in Saturday's season finale might not be enough for them to earn their third straight Presidents' Trophy.
The Red Wings look to avenge Thursday's loss to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks when they wrap up a home-and-home series with their Original Six rival to close their regular season.
Detroit (49-19-13), which clinched its third straight No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with Anaheim's 2-1 shootout loss to Dallas on Friday, is tied with Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo for the best record in the league and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. Each team has 111 points, but the Sabres have a game in hand.
The Red Wings have won the last two Presidents' Trophies, and three of the last four. By earning a point for reaching overtime Thursday, Detroit clinched another division crown with its 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago.
"It would have been nice to win, but we're happy we clinched the division," said backup goaltender Chris Osgood, who made 19 saves.
The Red Wings had won the first six meetings of the season between these teams, but couldn't overcome a stellar performance from Nikolai Khabibulin.
The Blackhawks goalie turned away a career-high 56 shots through overtime, then stopped three of four Red Wings in the shootout to help Chicago win its fourth straight game.
"Habby played, like, two games tonight," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "Habby was a one-man show. He was terrific. That's why we got him."
Added Detroit coach Mike Babcock: "We had every opportunity in the world. Their goalie earned his $7 million, or whatever he makes."
Khabibulin, Chicago's highest-paid player, is finishing the second year of a four-year, $27 million contract that has been filled with injuries and disappointments. Thursday's victory was his second straight, but he's 2-9-1 with a 4.19 goals-against average against the Wings since signing with the Blackhawks last season.
Detroit has won all three home games against Chicago this season, and 10 of the last 11 meetings at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings have earned a point in all but one of their home games since Dec. 20, going 19-1-5 in those contests.
The Red Wings killed off the Blackhawks' only power-play chance Thursday, and have thwarted 94.7 percent (36-of-38) of their opponents' opportunities with the man advantage in their last eight games. They're 4-0-4 in that span.
Dominik Hasek, who has started all but seven home games in goal for the Red Wings this season, has won his last five starts against Chicago, posting a 1.60 GAA and a shutout in those contests.
Pavel Datsyuk has one goal and 10 assists in his last six games against the Blackhawks. He signed a seven-year contract with the Red Wings on Friday.
Datsyuk, who leads Detroit with 87 points, has eight goals and 18 assists in his last 19 games. He assisted on Tomas Holmstrom's 29th goal of the season Thursday.
|Apr 07 '07||CHI 2 at DET 7||K. Calder|
|Apr 05 '07||DET 2 at CHI 3 - SO||P. Sharp|
|Mar 02 '07||CHI 2 at DET 6||V. Filppula|
|Feb 27 '07||DET 4 at CHI 1||T. Holmstrom|
|Feb 21 '07||CHI 2 at DET 4||H. Zetterberg|
|Jan 13 '07||CHI 3 at DET 6||J. Williams|
|Dec 14 '06||DET 3 at CHI 2||M. Samuelsson|
|Nov 02 '06||DET 2 at CHI 1||R. Lang|