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Just another season for Red Wings

by Brian Compton
A few thoughts before I mail Jennifer Love Hewitt a copy of "Malibu's Most Wanted":

Typical Wings -- The Detroit Red Wings made history Sunday.

With a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, the Wings became the first team in NHL history to record nine consecutive 100-point seasons.

''Obviously, to set an NHL record, it's phenomenal,'' Wings coach Mike Babcock said. ''I've only been part of it for four years, (but I'm) proud of the fact that for four years we've been over the century mark.''

Without question, the record is a testament to how hard the entire organization works, from owners Mike and Marian Illitch to senior VP Jim Devellano to GM Ken Holland to the coaching staff to the players. It sure seems as if whatever the Red Wings touch automatically turns to gold.

''That's beyond impressive,'' Babcock said. ''When you look at that, I'm proud for those people. For us, we're just trying to get better and get prepared for the playoffs.''

Goaltender Chris Osgood, who has struggled mightily at times this season, appears to be back on track. The three-time Stanley Cup winner stopped all 23 shots he faced for his 49th career shutout.

''It seems like every (year) we end up in the same spot,'' said Osgood, who tied longtime friend and teammate Mike Vernon, for 11th on the NHL career list with 385 victories. ''We've got a good core, a good group of guys. We know how to fight through adversity. We know how to deal with the pressures of playing in Detroit. We always know in the end that we're going to be there and give ourselves a good chance to win in the end.''

Inching closer -- Don't look now, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are just two points out of fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

Isn't it hard to believe that this is the same team that seemed destined to miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs entirely? That's because it isn't.

For starters, Michel Therrien is no longer the coach, but this turnaround certainly has a lot to do with personnel changes. The additions of Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin have paid huge dividends for the Pens, who have recorded points in each of their last 10 games -- including Sunday's 6-4 win against the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena.

Both newcomers were major contributors Sunday, as Kunitz scored twice and Guerin had a goal and 2 assists. Kunitz had a hat trick when the final horn sounded, but Sergei Gonchar received credit for one of his third-period tallies following a post-game video review.

''They seem like a little different team, it seemed like they had a little more energy, a little more jump,'' Boston's Mark Stuart said of Pittsburgh, which was in a 5-13-0 slide when it lost twice to Boston in successive games 2 1/2 months ago. ''And putting Billy Guerin with Crosby's playmaking abilities definitely adds another aspect to their offense. And then Kunitz with his speed.''

Interim coach Dan Bylsma certainly deserves a lot of credit, as well. With Sunday's win, the Penguins improved to 10-1-3 since Bylsma replaced Therrien on Feb. 15. Bylsma was happy to see his team rebound after blowing a late 3-1 lead Saturday en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators. It was the first of Pittsburgh's eight-game homestand.

"If we play the right way and go at teams in the offensive zone, hopefully we become a good third-period team," Bylsma said. "If we don't manage the puck as well and we make it a 50-50 game, you see the kind of result we had the previous night."

For Pete's sake -- First, it was Joey MacDonald. Then it was Yann Danis.

On Sunday afternoon, Peter Mannino showcased his skills for New York Islanders brass.

The 25-year-old rookie made 40 saves in front of close to 22,140 fans as the Isles skated away with a 4-2 win in Chicago. It was their second win in their last three games, and the Isles' sixth in their last nine.

But the real story was Mannino. With MacDonald and Danis injured, Mannino made his NHL start.

"I felt good right away," Mannino said. "Chicago is an unbelievable offensive team. I wanted to get out the nerves as much as possible and stay focused. When you get a lot of shots, it helps, especially if you're not letting them in right away."

With the Islanders off until Friday, it's possible MacDonald (knee) could dress against the Carolina Hurricanes. But at the very least, Mannino gave coach Scott Gordon a memorable performance.

''Give him credit. It's a tough situation," said Gordon, whose team is 2-1-1 on its six-game road trip. "He hasn't had a lot of practice time because of the schedule on the road. To go into a building with 22,000 people, it's obviously a great thing for him.''

Not done yet -- Less than 24 hours after being crushed by the Red Wings, the St. Louis Blues showed the hockey world that they're not about to bow out of the Western Conference playoff race.

Keith Tkachuk and David Perron scored on a two-man advantage in the second period, David Backes had a power-play goal and the Blues held on for a 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at the Scottrade Center on Sunday night.

With the win, the Blues passed the Wild for 10th place in the West. It was a perfect way to rebound from a 5-2 home loss to Detroit on Saturday.

''This is the way we're going to have to play,'' Blues center Andy McDonald said. ''We can't afford to lose hockey games, especially two in a row. We let it go after (Saturday) night and turned around and got prepared for today.''

The Blues certainly made the most of their opportunities, as they went 3-for-7 on the power play. Two of those tallies came 91 seconds apart by Tkachuk and Perron.

''You hardly ever see that against a team like Minnesota, giving up that many penalties and us capitalizing on them,'' said Tkachuk, who now has 521 career goals, one shy of tying Pat Verbeek for 32nd all-time. ''It was huge. We got some quality opportunities on the 5-on-3s. That was nice.''

Welcome back -- Travis Moen had some kind of return to the Honda Center on Sunday night.

After a video tribute saluting his time with the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks forward scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory. He has 2 goals since he and defenseman Kent Huskins were traded from Anaheim to San Jose in a March 4 deal that brought two prospects and a 2011 conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Ducks.

''It's nice to win; coming back, that was the main goal -- get two points and have fun,'' said Moen, who scored with 1:05 left in the second period.

Moen was one of Anaheim's top defensive forwards during his four-year stint with Anaheim. He played a huge role in the Ducks' run to the Stanley Cup in 2007, scoring 7 goals in 21 postseason contests.
''You hardly ever see that against a team like Minnesota, giving up that many penalties and us capitalizing on them. It was huge. We got some quality opportunities on the 5-on-3s. That was nice.''  -- Blues forward Keith Tkachuk
''Looking back there were a lot of fun times,'' Moen said.

Cloud nine -- A quick start paced the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night to their ninth straight home win.

The Canucks scored three first-period goals, including one shorthanded by Alex Burrows, en route to a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche at GM Place. Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt also scored in the opening period for Vancouver, which has won nine in a row at home for the first time since 1993, matching a club record.

More importantly, the win pulled the Canucks to within two points of fourth place in the West, thanks to Chicago's 4-2 loss to the Islanders on Sunday. And despite Vancouver's rocky start to the season, it is now just five points behind the first-place Calgary Flames in the Northwest Division.

''It's crazy, we couldn't buy a win a month and a half ago, we always found a way to lose every game,'' said Burrows, who also had an assist. ''But we turned it around, and right now we have a lot of confidence in our own building. That's a good thing heading into the playoffs.''

The Canucks, who play the 14th-place Avalanche three more times, snapped an 0-5-3 skid against their division rivals. Vancouver also has a game in hand on Calgary.

''They dominated us in games past and we wanted to do something about it tonight,'' said Ryan Kesler, who had 3 assists. "We wanted to exclude ourselves from the bottom three or four teams that are fighting for a playoff spot. Now we're trying to catch Calgary and Chicago. We have them worried about us now, which is a good thing.''

Sean being Sean -- This was what the New York Rangers were hoping for when they claimed Sean Avery on re-entry waivers from the Dallas Stars.


GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 2 | +/-: +2

The agitating forward scored a pair of power-play goals and drew two penalties  Sunday, leading the Blueshirts to a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

Avery has scored in three straight games and has 4 goals during that span. The Rangers have won four of six games since his return to the Big Apple. New York, which began the day eighth in the East, moved within four points of No. 4 Philadelphia. The teams have two meetings remaining.

''The first couple of games I was just so nervous, kind of playing a little too hard,'' Avery said. ''I'm just trying to slow it down, think about the plays and where they're going to end up.

''I feel good as far as just being happy that I'm out playing, and trying to play hard and help the team win. I've gotten some good bounces and I've gotten some good passes. It's tough to explain. Obviously, the team playing better is something that helps a lot.''

Rangers captain Chris Drury was thrilled with Avery's performance and hopes to see more just like it down the stretch as New York battles for a playoff spot.

''He's very underrated as a player,'' Drury said. ''He's skilled and people are starting to realize how good he is besides all the other stuff.

''Rather than booing us they're chanting 'Avery.' I'll take that any game.''

Contact Brian Compton at

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.
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