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'Canes try to snap 23-year drought in Detroit

by John Kreiser

HURRICANES (30-30-15) at RED WINGS (44-25-5)

TV: FS-Carolinas (HD); FS-Detroit+ (HD)

Last 10: Carolina 6-3-1; Detroit 2-6-2

Season Series: It's the only meeting of the season between two teams that haven't seen each other since the final week of the 2010-11 season, when Carolina shut out Detroit 3-0 in Raleigh. 

Big Story: Will he or won't he? The struggling Wings are hoping that Saturday's game will mark the return of captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who has missed three weeks with an ankle injury after blocking a shot. The Wings haven't been the same team since then -- the absence of their captain and a host of other regulars has sent Detroit into a 0-4-2 tailspin that has dropped them into a battle for the final home-ice playoff berth in the first round. 

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Four straight wins had the 'Canes dreaming of a late run that would carry them to a playoff berth. Those dreams all but died when they went to Columbus on Friday night and were whacked 5-1 by the Blue Jackets, the worst team in the NHL.

"We just looked like a tired hockey team tonight," coach Kirk Muller said. "We've had a lot of games here in March. Guys have been battling every night. It's a tough loss for us. We've got to bounce back and get ready for a good opponent."

Red Wings: Lidstrom skated again at Friday's practice, and Mike Babcock sounded afterwards like a coach whose best defenseman would be back in the lineup. Lidstrom wasn't so sure.

"It's hard to say," he told the team's website. "We'll see what they want to do, see what the coaching staff and trainers want to do, that's why it's hard to say right now whether I'm going to play or not. Just have to wait it out tomorrow and see how it feels."

Who's Hot: Though he didn't have a point on Friday, Carolina captain Eric Staal has four goals and six points in his last four games.

Injury Report: Carolina was without forward Andreas Nodl (concussion symptoms) and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (back) against Columbus. … In addition to Lidstrom, who has missed 11 games -- the longest single absence of his 21-year NHL career -- the Wings are without forwards Darren Helm (sprained knee) and Johan Franzen (back), defensemen Jakub Kindl (oblique) and Jonathan Ericsson (broken wrist) and goaltenders Jimmy Howard (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back). Kindl could be back on Friday, regardless of whether Lidstrom plays. 

Stat Pack: Joe Louis Arena has been a nightmare for the Hurricanes' franchise, even before it moved from Hartford. The Wings are 14-0-1 at the Joe against the Whalers/'Canes franchise in the regular season since a 3-0 loss to Hartford on Nov. 14, 1989. The Hurricanes' only win in Detroit since then came in Game 1 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Final.

Puck Drop: The Wings haven't lost seven in a row since January 1990, and Babcock said his team has to persevere despite the rash of injuries that has robbed him of a half-dozen regulars on some nights.

"It just doesn't happen by accident, you have to keep pushing through it and be desperate, focused and poised and we'll get feeling better about ourselves," Babcock told the team's website. "I think we're starting to play better and that's a positive thing for us and if we get one more D … that makes us a better team."

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