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Blue Jackets and Red Wings Square Off in Motown

by Staff Writer / Columbus Blue Jackets

If the Detroit Red Wings are to get back on track, they might need more than Pavel Datsyuk to provide the scoring.

The Red Wings will look to jump start their slumping offense and avoid a third straight loss Thursday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After scoring nine times in last week's home-and-home sweep of Nashville - the team it's chasing for the Central Division lead - Detroit (45-19-9) was not nearly as effective offensively in its last two games. Following a 4-1 loss at Vancouver on Saturday, the Red Wings fell 2-1 at Calgary on Tuesday.

"We still have a few games left here but we missed a chance and we're starting to run out of games," Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We want to play well down the stretch and play disciplined down the stretch and that's not something we've been doing the past couple games."

Datsyuk, the team's leading scorer with 78 points, has scored each of the goals in the last two contests and will take an 11-game point streak into Thursday's game against Columbus. He has four goals and 13 assists during that run.

Part of Detroit's offensive dry spell can be traced to injuries to key players.

Henrik Zetterberg, who has a team-high 33 goals, remains out due to back spasms which have bothered him since late February. Dan Cleary, who has a career-high 20 goals, is day-to-day with a knee injury that's kept him sidelined since Feb. 23.

The Red Wings could get a lift, though, with forward Todd Bertuzzi expected to make his Detroit debut at some point on the upcoming three-game homestand. Bertuzzi was acquired in a trade with Florida on Feb. 27, but hasn't played since Oct. 18 because of back problems. He has one goal and six assists in seven games this season.

Another problem lately for the Red Wings has been the power play, going 1-for-13 over the last four games. The Blue Jackets have given up three power-play goals in their last two games and are among the league's worst penalty-killing teams at 80.9 percent.

Detroit is 3-2-0 against Columbus and has outscored the Blue Jackets 9-1 in two meetings at Joe Louis Arena this season. Columbus won the most recent matchup, 3-1 at home on Jan. 19, but has won just three times in 16 games all-time at Detroit.

The Blue Jackets (29-37-7) avoided a third straight loss with a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. David Vyborny assisted on both of Fredrik Modin's goals for Columbus.

"It's fun to score some goals," Modin said. "I thought our line played well. We held on to the puck and created some chances down low."

While Modin's 19 goals rank second on the team to Rick Nash (23), Vyborny tops Columbus with 45 assists - including five against the Red Wings.

Detroit and Columbus will meet three times over the final 2 1/2 weeks of the season.

 

- Associated Press

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