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Wings find a way to keep home streak going

Saturday, 02.18.2012 / 1:10 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - Columnist

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Wings find a way to keep home streak going
Star players are star players for a reason -- they come up big when their team needs them most. Three of Detroit's best did just that on Friday night.
Star players are star players for a reason -- they come up big when their team needs them most. Three of Detroit's best did just that on Friday night.

With regulation time winding down, future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom controlled a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and fed Henrik Zetterberg. The 2008 Conn Smythe winner hit All-Star center Pavel Datsyuk at the Nashville blue line with a no-look pass. Datsyuk stepped around one All-Star, defenseman Ryan Suter, before beating another -- goalie Pekka Rinne -- from between the circles with 5.8 seconds to play, giving Detroit a 2-1 win and extending the Wings' home winning streak to 22 games.

The win gives the Wings a League-high 82 points, four more than second-place Vancouver in the West and three more than the New York Rangers in the overall standings.

In the Eastern Conference, New Jersey moved into fifth place with a 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Friday night's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

New York Rangers (79 points) have a couple of days to rest after Thursday's 4-2 home loss to Chicago. They're off until Columbus comes to Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

Boston (72 points after Friday's 4-2 loss at Winnipeg)
continued its erratic play by losing for the second time this season in Manitoba. David Krejci's goal 49 seconds into the third period got the B's even at 2-2, but they couldn't beat Ondrej Pavelec again. Tuukka Rask had a tough night, stopping only 21 of 25 shots as the Bruins fell to 1-1-0 on their six-game trip.

Florida (65 points after Friday's 2-1 loss to Washington)
was 20 minutes away from taking command of the Southeast Division race but couldn't find a way to close out the Caps. Tomas Fleischmann gave Florida an early lead, but that was the only goal the Panthers were able to score.

The next five:

Philadelphia (71 points) had newcomer Nicklas Grossman on the ice at Friday's practice -- the Flyers acquired the big defenseman from Dallas on Thursday. He'll be in the lineup for Saturday afternoon's home game against Pittsburgh. One player who won't be is fourth-line Tom Sestito, who's scheduled for surgery to repair a torn groin muscle suffered in Thursday's 7-2 wipeout of Buffalo.

New Jersey (70 points after Friday's 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim)
blew a 2-0 lead and got the benefit of a video review in overtime that negated what would have been the winning goal before beating the Ducks in a shootout. Patrik Elias' goal in the third round gave the Devils 10 wins in their 13 tiebreakers this season -- a big reason they've battling for the last home-ice spot rather than merely for a playoff berth.

Pittsburgh (69 points)
had Sidney Crosby on the ice for Friday's practice, but there's no change in his status. Crosby said he's still having headaches, though he noted that they are "more tolerable now." He stayed home to continue working on his own as the Penguins headed for a weekend trip to Philadelphia and Buffalo.

Ottawa (68 points)
is in the midst of a five-day break, hoping that everyone else in the East doesn't pile up too many points over the weekend. The Senators, the first team in the NHL to reach 60 games played, don't play again until they visit the Islanders on Monday afternoon.

Toronto (64 points)
had a second day off in Vancouver before meeting the Canucks in a late afternoon game on Saturday.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (63 points after Friday's 2-1 win at Florida)
trailed 1-0 after two periods at the BankAtlantic Center, but goals by Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin got their four-game road trip off to a good start. The Caps won't have much time to enjoy their comeback win; they flew to Tampa Bay for a game on Saturday night.

Winnipeg (62 points after Friday's 4-2 win against Boston)
started off its eight-game homestand on a positive note by beating the Bruins thanks to a pair of third-period goals by Bryan Little. Ondrej Pavelec continued his solid goaltending with 31 saves.

Montreal (58 points after Friday's 4-3 shootout win at Buffalo)
managed only 19 shots against the Sabres and couldn't hole a 3-2 lead in the third period. But the Canadiens left First Niagara Center with two points thanks to shootout goals by Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais, as well as two saves in the tiebreaker by Carey Price.

Tampa Bay (56 points)
will try to build on Thursday's 6-5 overtime win against San Jose when Washington comes to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday. They will again be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who has been asked to provide a list of teams to which he'd be willing to accept a trade.

New York Islanders (56 points)
host Carolina on Saturday in a must-win game after Thursday's 5-1 loss in St. Louis. They may have to do it without goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who missed the game against the Blues with the flu; the Isles have called up minor-leaguer Kevin Poulin for Saturday's game.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Detroit (82 points after Friday's 2-1 win against Nashville) found a way to keep its home winning streak alive and now have won 22 in a row at Joe Louis Arena. A win against San Jose on Sunday will break the all-time record for the most consecutive regular-season home wins in one or more seasons; Boston won its last 20 home games in 1929-30 and the first two in '30-31.

Vancouver (78 points)
had a second day off before a late-afternoon (4 p.m. local time) visit by the Maple Leafs. It's the Canucks' last home game until March -- they begin a six-game trip Sunday in Edmonton.

San Jose (69 points after Friday's 3-2 loss at Carolina)
looked like a tired team through 40 minutes in Raleigh after having to travel from Tampa Bay on game day due to weather problems. The Sharks scored two quick goals in the third period to get even at 2-2, only to allow Jussi Jokinen's goal and drop to 1-2-1 on their nine-game trip.

The next five:

St. Louis (77 points)
brings the most home wins in the NHL (25) into Saturday afternoon's game against Minnesota at Scottrade Center. The bad news: After Saturday, the Blues play 16 of their last 24 games on the road, beginning Sunday in Chicago.

Nashville (72 points after Friday's 2-1 loss at Detroit)
was less than six seconds away from getting a point at Joe Louis Arena before Datsyuk's goal sent them home empty-handed. The good news for the Preds is that they acquired the kind of veteran defenseman they'd been looking for when GM David Poile landed Hall Gill from Montreal for prospects and a draft pick.

Chicago (67 points)
wraps up a monster nine-game trip Saturday afternoon in Columbus. After losing the first seven games, the Hawks stunned the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers 4-2 in New York on Thursday. They'll head home after Saturday's game for a Sunday afternoon meeting with St. Louis.

Phoenix (65 points)
will definitely have one of the season's more interesting giveaways for Saturday's game against Dallas. The first 10,000 fans at Arena will get bobbleheads of 1970s rocker Alice Cooper, who will also take part in the ceremonial puck drop.

Los Angeles (65 points)
will honor Charlie Simmer as part of its Legends Series prior to Saturday's game against Calgary. The current Kings could use Simmer's scoring touch -- Thursday's 1-0 loss to Phoenix marked the seventh time they've been blanked this season.

On the outside looking in:

Calgary (63 points)
can move into eighth place with a regulation win at Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Colorado (62 points after Friday's 3-1 win at Edmonton)
got three assists from Ryan O'Reilly and 26 saves by Semyon Varlamov in a grind-it-out win against the Oilers. The Avs finish a road trip Sunday in Winnipeg.

Dallas (61 points)
doesn't expect to have All-Star center Jamie Benn in the lineup for Saturday's visit to Phoenix due to a leg laceration suffered on Thursday. The Stars hope he'll be able to play Sunday against Nashville.

Minnesota (59 points)
takes a five-game losing streak into Saturday afternoon's game at St. Louis, one of the toughest places for road teams in the NHL.

Anaheim (58 points after Friday's 3-2 shootout loss at New Jersey)
overcame a 2-0 loss and forced overtime, then thought it had a win when the puck went into the net off Ryan Getzlaf's skate 1:10 into OT. But the goal was waved off after video review and the Ducks lost the shootout -- and a much-needed point.

Quote of the Day

We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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