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Hawks, Ducks trying to strengthen playoff positions

by Dan Rosen
With 14 days left in the regular season, the playoff races in each conference are still on fire. Almost every game has added significance, with points at such a premium, as teams jockey for positioning. is here to give you a Down the Stretch daily that will highlight what you need to know about the games that directly can impact the playoff races.

Here is the installment for Monday, March 28:

CHICAGO (40-26-8, 88 points) at DETROIT (44-22-9, 97 points)

Where they stand: Chicago is eighth in the Western Conference; Detroit is second in the West

What's at stake: Chicago can jump Anaheim and move into seventh place with a win or overtime/shootout loss if the Ducks lose to Colorado. Despite being tied with San Jose in points, Detroit still is ahead of them in the standings because it has a game in hand and one more non-shootout win. The Red Wings can move a step closer to clinching the second seed with a win.

How it's going: Earlier this month the Blackhawks were rolling and a playoff berth was all but a guarantee. Not anymore. Anaheim's sizzling right wing Corey Perry scored twice in the third period, including the winner with 4:30 left, to hand the Blackhawks a 2-1 loss Saturday. Chicago has eight games remaining, but three are against the Red Wings, and they also play at Boston on Tuesday. The good news is the Blackhawks have three games in hand on the Flames, who sit one point back in ninth. They also have two more non-shootout wins than the Stars, who are 10th with 86 points and eight games left.

The Red Wings got a scare in Saturday's 4-2 win against Toronto when goalie Jimmy Howard was hurt after Joffrey Lupul fell on his left shoulder as he scored a goal in the third period. Fortunately, Howard's injury is not serious as tests Sunday showed it's just a sprain. It's likely that backup Joey MacDonald will start Monday (7:30 p.m., VERSUS, TSN2), with Howard possibly returning Wednesday against St. Louis. MacDonald got the win in relief of Howard on Saturday, making seven saves after coming in with the score tied at 2-2. The Detroit Free Press also is reporting that Johan Franzen is saying he will return to the Red Wings' lineup Monday. Franzen has missed four games with a groin injury.

Upcoming: Chicago travels to Boston to play the Bruins on Tuesday at TD Garden, goes to Columbus for a game on Friday and returns home to play Tampa Bay on Sunday. Detroit will finish its five-game homestand against St. Louis on Wednesday.

COLORADO (28-38-8, 64 points) at ANAHEIM (42-28-5, 89 points)

Where they stand: Colorado is 14th in the West; Anaheim is seventh in the West

What's at stake: Anaheim can keep inching closer to a playoff berth with a win. The Ducks potentially could finish the night with a four-point cushion between themselves and the ninth-place Flames. Then again, they also could finish the night in eighth place.

How it's going: Perry is on fire and helping carry the Ducks to a playoff berth. He has rammed himself into the Hart Trophy race with 13 goals and 17 points in his last nine games. Anaheim is 7-2-0 in the stretch. Perry now leads the NHL with 44 goals and is fifth with 85 points. He's tied for fourth in power-play goals (12), tied for seventh in shorthanded goals (3) and is tied for second among all forwards in average ice time per game (22:03). The Ducks are 10-3-0 since going winless in five straight from Feb. 16-25 (0-4-1).  

Colorado has lost two in a row after winning back-to-back games in a shootout. The Avalanche need two more wins in their final eight games to avoid finishing with fewer than 30 for the first time since the franchise moved to Denver.

Upcoming: This is a quick stop at home for the Ducks, who move on to play in Calgary on Wednesday and in San Jose on Saturday. They just finished a three-game road trip. The Avalanche will continue to try to play spoiler Thursday against Nashville, then Friday at Phoenix and Sunday against Calgary.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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