The Detroit Red Wings dominance over the Chicago Blackhawks is one reason they are sitting at the top of the NHL standings and on the verge of clinching the Central Division title.
The Red Wings will look to remain perfect this season against their Original Six rival when they visit the Blackhawks on Thursday in the opener of a home-and-home series to close out their season.
Detroit (49-19-12), which has an NHL-leading 110 points, has won seven in a row over Chicago, including all six meetings in 2006-07. The Red Wings are 14-0-1 against the Blackhawks since a 3-0 loss at Chicago on Dec. 28, 2003.
The Blackhawks (30-40-9), who have won three in a row following a six-game skid, will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
Detroit is one point ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo - which has three games left - for the top spot in the NHL. The Red Wings, who lead Nashville by four points in the Central, can clinch the division title by earning one point in their last two games.
They finish the regular season at home against Chicago on Saturday, while the Blackhawks will close the season at Dallas on Sunday.
Dominik Hasek made 35 saves and recorded his eighth shutout of the season Tuesday in Detroit's 3-0 home win over Columbus. The Red Wings improved to 4-0-1 in their last four games after losing four in a row.
Kyle Calder, Todd Bertuzzi and Kris Draper each scored third-period goals as the Red Wings won despite being outshot 35-23.
"From our point of view, it was not the best game," said Hasek, who posted his 76th shutout, tying him with Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for eighth on the all-time list. "We really struggled for two periods. In the third, we scored a goal and changed the momentum.
"Against a team like Columbus, it's good enough. But in the playoffs, it won't be enough."
Hasek earned his 38th victory, leaving him three shy of his career best he set with Detroit in 2001-02. He is 3-0-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average in three starts this season against Chicago, the club he broke into the NHL with in 1990.
Pavel Datsyuk, who had two assists Tuesday to give him seven points in his last five games, has nine of his team-leading 59 assists in six contests against Chicago this season. He had three assists in Detroit's 6-2 home win over Chicago on March 2.
Jeff Hamilton scored the shootout winner in Chicago's 3-2 victory at Nashville on Tuesday.
"It's good to see, and I am proud of them ... Our guys never quit," Chicago coach Denis Savard. "They kept battling and kept working. Things are going to turn around here pretty soon."
The Blackhawks, who have been outscored 25-11 by Detroit this season, could be without leading scorer Martin Havlat on Thursday. Havlat, who has 57 points, injured his shoulder in the first period against Nashville and did not return.
Jason Williams, who was acquired by Chicago from Detroit on Feb. 26, had two goals for the Blackhawks in the March 2 loss to the Red Wings.