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Red Wings seek important points against Sabres

Detroit hopes to pass Flyers in wild-card race, gain on Bruins in Atlantic Division

by Paul Harris / NHL.com Correspondent

SABRES (31-34-10) at RED WINGS (37-27-11)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-D

DETROIT -- Jimmy Howard starts in goal for the Detroit Red Wings against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit is tied for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia Flyers, who have a game in hand. The Red Wings trail the Boston Bruins by three points for third place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand.

Detroit has qualified for the playoffs 24 consecutive seasons.

Petr Mrazek had beaten Howard out to be the Red Wings No. 1 goaltender earlier in the season, but has struggled recently. Since Feb. 12, Mrazek is 6-6-2 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .888 save percentage. Howard is 3-3-1 with a 2.95 GAA and .906 SV% in that same span.

"I've been in this situation, and the fact that you've come out on top gives you confidence that you can do it again," Howard said. "Just play the way I know I'm capable of playing. If can do that, then I just give the guys a chance."

"Every game we try to go with the group that we think gives us the best chance to win that night and we decided that tonight we're going to go with Jimmy," coach Jeff Blashill said.

The Red Wings are coming off a 7-2 home loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Mrazek was pulled late in the second period after giving up four goals on 27 shots. 

"You're going to get scored on in a game," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "How we respond to that, it's real important; not play on our heels. We've just got to keep going. Most of the times when we've been scored on we've been playing pretty good. And we change the way we play. That can't happen. We've got to move on and keep playing the way we've been doing."

Buffalo is out of the playoff race and looking toward the future.

"It's obviously not a great position that we're in right now but we got to play for something and we're trying to build for something," defenseman Zach Bogosian said. "Whether it's next year or to finish the year strong. We're trying to build something around here."

Coach Dan Bylsma talked to the team before morning skate Monday about playing teams in the playoff race.

"They're going to be a desperate team, one that's fighting to get into that playoff picture in the last spot right now," Bylsma said. "We talked about playing games this time of year; they're hard to win, they're playoff-type games and we'll be in one tonight."
 
Here are the projected lineups:
 
SABRES
 
Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Nicolas Deslauriers

Zemgus Girgensons - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson - David Legwand - Hudson Fasching

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Mark Pysyk - Casey Nelson

Chad Johnson

Nathan Lieuwen

Injured: Tyler Ennis (upper body), Cody McCormick (blood clots), Robin Lehner (lower body)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Cody Franson

RED WINGS 
 
Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin

Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Anthony Mantha

Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar

Brad Richards - Luke Glendening - Andreas Athanasiou

Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey

Niklas Kronwall - Alexey Marchenko

Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Green

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Injured: Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion)

Scratched: Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith

Status update: Marchenko replaces Smith in the Red Wings lineup.

Who's hot: Reinhart has two goals and two assists in his past four games. … Datsyuk has three goals and four assists in his past six games.

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