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Red Wings' playoff streak to continue if they win out

Crucial tests loom with back-to-back games against Flyers, Bruins

by Paul Harris / Correspondent

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings know if they win their three remaining regular-season games, they will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 25th straight time.

But if they fail to do so, the longest active streak of consecutive postseason appearances in the history of major North American sports will come to a halt.

"It's great," goaltender Jimmy Howard said of the winner-take-all vibe surrounding the Red Wings this week. "If you're not excited, I don't know what would get your blood flowing around here. These are going to be very intense games. We're definitely looking forward to Wednesday night."

The Red Wings host the Philadelphia Flyers in a nationally televised Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports). Each team has 91 points; Detroit is third in the Atlantic Division, and Philadelphia, of the Metropolitan Division, holds the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have played one fewer game.

The next night, the Red Wings conclude a back-to-back set with a road game against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Detroit and Boston each have 91 points; the Red Wings enter Wednesday with a game in hand.

Video: Chatting with Jeff Blashill

The Red Wings are 0-1-1 against the Flyers this season and 1-1-1 against the Bruins.

"The League, when they made the schedule, they were probably hoping these would be some big games, and [they] will be," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "Rivalry Wednesday, probably the first one that's actually a big rivalry. These games are the fun games and you want to play these games. I think a lot of guys here are real excited. We have two of them here, Wednesday and Thursday, but obviously it starts Wednesday."

The Red Wings' regular-season finale is Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Detroit knows goaltending will play a big part in whatever success it has during the next four days.

Howard and Petr Mrazek have had turns as the No. 1 goalie, but it is Howard who appears to be in form at the moment after Mrazek was spectacular until mid-February. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill has not committed to a starting goaltender for the any of the three remaining games.

Howard was in goal for back-to-back victories last weekend. He stopped 52 of 56 shots in a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Friday at Joe Louis Arena and a 3-2 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

"I just thought [Howard] looked really solid," Blashill said. "I thought he looked in control of himself. I thought he made saves at times look easy. His rebound control was good. When there were rebounds, he was in the cage to battle for pucks."

What the Red Wings do know is winning out will send them to the playoffs, extending a record that has become a source of identity for the franchise.

"I'd say two of the biggest opportunities is the way I'd word it," Blashill said of the back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday. "But we've known that for a while, that it looks like that's the case. That's one of the reasons that we felt like we controlled our own destiny, even last week after the Montreal game (a 4-3 loss at Bell Centre on Tuesday), because we do have opportunities to play those teams. They could say the same, so it should make for a great, great opportunity for all of us."

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