Red Wings-Blue Jackets Preview
GAME: Detroit Red Wings (46-20-11-2) at Columbus Blue Jackets (24-43-8-4).
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Detroit Red Wings have the best record in the NHL. They're about to get
With forwards Robert Lang and Kris Draper expected to return, the Red Wings
try to move closer to the Western Conference title when they visit the Columbus
A victory would give Detroit the top seed in the West and home-ice through
the conference playoffs. The Red Wings are one point ahead of Tampa Bay with
one game in hand in the race for the league's best record and home-ice
throughout the postseason.
"I think it's a real tribute to be No. 1 in the league overall, so we're
looking at that as a goal for us," Detroit's Ray Whitney said. "Certainly
getting home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs would be a bonus. We're
going to try to keep focused on what we're doing and try to peak going into the
Lang and Draper's return should make arguably the league's best team even
Lang was the NHL's leading scorer when he was acquired from Washington on
Feb. 27, but a rib injury has sidelined him since March 8. Draper, having the
best offensive season of his career with 24 goals and 40 points, has missed 14
games with a shoulder injury.
Though a 5-3 victory over Minnesota on Sunday stretched Detroit's win streak
to three, the best news was that goalie Manny Legace was not injured during a
second-period collision with Whitney.
Legace could be the Red Wings' starting goalie for the playoffs if Curtis
Joseph is not completely healed from an ankle injury. Legace has allowed four
goals during three consecutive wins.
"Luckily, my knee released," Legace said. "Kind of an awkward position
and, luckily, my knee released."
Monday's win came after Detroit surrendered one goal in a home-and-home
sweep of Colorado.
"Our objective is to get ready for the playoffs," Detroit forward Steve
Thomas said. "We wanted to continue what we were doing against Colorado."
Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk has goals in five straight games after going
13 games without one.
Columbus failed in a bid to win five straight for the first time in
franchise history, losing 6-0 at Buffalo Monday.
The Blue Jackets, the lowest-scoring team in the West, have been shut out 11
times this season.
"I think we knew they would come out hard. They're fighting for their
lives," Columbus defenseman Luke Richardson said. "They kept it up, and we
didn't recover. There's no excuse."
With three games left in the regular season, Blue Jackets left wing Rick
Nash has a chance to lead the league in goals. Nash has 40 goals, one more than
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Calgary's Jarome Iginla.
STANDINGS: Red Wings - 105 points, 1st place, Central Division. Blue Jackets
- 60 points, 4th place, 45 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Red Wings - Datsyuk, 30 goals; Lang, 49 assists and 78 points;
Brendan Shanahan, 113 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nash, 40 goals and 55 points; David
Vyborny, 31 assists; Jody Shelley, 228 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 29): Red Wings - Power play: 20.4 percent (63
for 309), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.8 percent (264 for 304), 1st. Blue
Jackets - Power play: 14.5 percent (56 for 387), 24th. Penalty killing: 84.9
percent (276 for 325), 9th.
GOALTENDERS: Red Wings - Legace (22-9-5, 3 SO, 2.07 GAA); Marc Lamothe
(0-0-1, 0.92). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (20-34-7, 5, 2.57); Fred Brathwaite
SEASON SERIES: Red Wings, 3-1.
LAST MEETING: March 11; Red Wings, 4-2. At Columbus, Ohio, Jason Williams
scored twice and Jospeh turned aside 31 shots for Detroit.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Wings - 16-14-7-2 on the road; Blue Jackets -
17-16-4-2 at home.