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Oilers back home, look to avoid sweep by Wings

by Brian Hunter

RED WINGS (12-10-5) at OILERS (10-11-5)

TV: RDS2, FS-Detroit, SNET-Edmonton

Last 10: Detroit 5-3-2; Edmonton 4-4-2

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The Red Wings will be aiming for a sweep, having won the first two matchups in Detroit. Jimmy Howard has given up just one goal, while Pavel Datsyuk has a goal and two assists.

Big story: This is the start of a four-game homestand for Edmonton, which salvaged a difficult nine-game road trip that at one point threatened to derail its season with back-to-back victories at Chicago and Colorado. As a result, the Oilers finished the trek with a 3-4-2 mark and remain very much in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: There's every indication Detroit will be battling down to the final days of the regular season to secure a postseason berth, and if that's the case Red Wings coach Mike Babcock may have no choice but to run Howard out as his goalie night after night. Jonas Gustavsson has been underwhelming in each of his two previous starts, giving up five goals on just 22 shots Wednesday night in a 5-2 loss in Calgary to begin a three-game road trip that concludes Saturday in Vancouver.

"It was 2-2 after two, and we had a good chance to get a good win on the road," Gustavsson told the Detroit Free Press. "They get some good chances, and they score on them. For myself, you want to be able to help the team, but I guess it wasn't good enough.

"I felt confident going out in the third period that we'd have a chance to win it, and then, things don't go your way, and you get frustrated over that."

Oilers: Here's a chance for Edmonton to build off one of its most impressive wins of the season, against a Colorado team playing some of its own best hockey and which had been tough to beat on home ice. But the Oilers made it look fairly simple Tuesday, getting a goal and an assist each from Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi and 35 saves from Devan Dubnyk in a 4-0 victory. The Oilers had started their road trip 1-0-1, then hit an 0-4-1 skid, but finished up strong.

"We'll have to get used to being home again," said Dubnyk, who recorded his first shutout of the season and the fifth of his career. "I think everybody's real excited to get back to Edmonton. When you have a tough road trip like this, it just feels nice counting down (the time) and knowing you're going to get the win."

Who's hot: Valtteri Filppula scored a goal on four shots in his return to the Red Wings lineup on Wednesday. … Gagner has three goals in the Oilers' past two games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be emerging from his sophomore slump, with a goal and two assists over the same span.

Injury report: Howard has been battling the flu, which led to Gustavsson starting in Calgary. Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) and forwards Darren Helm (back), Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (finger) are on injured reserve. … Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (groin), defenseman Mark Fistric (elbow) and forward Eric Belanger (groin) are on injured reserve.

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