RED WINGS (41-28-11) at BRUINS (41-30-9)
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BOSTON - The Detroit Red Wings can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 25th straight season if they defeat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
The Bruins need help to return to the postseason but can put themselves in the best position to reach the playoffs by beating the Red Wings and then the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.
The Red Wings have 93 points and the Bruins have 91; each have two games remaining in the race for third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers are tied for the second wild card into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but the Flyers have a game in hand.
Neither the Bruins nor Red Wings held a morning skate for anyone other than scratches and injured players Thursday.
The Red Wings arrived late Wednesday after defeating the Flyers 3-0 in Detroit. Goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has started throughout the Red Wings' three-game winning streak, made 30 saves for his second shutout of the season. Howard is expected to start for Detroit because of his fine play and because Petr Mrazek took part in the optional skate.
Detroit is 7-3-0 in its past 10 games.
"Just paying attention to detail," Howard told the Detroit News about the Red Wings' improved play. "We've limited our turnovers at the blue line and we've been a lot smarter with the puck, not forcing things. Just work with what's given."
The Bruins have been traveling in the opposite direction from the Red Wings. After losing to the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday the Bruins fell to 2-7-1 in their past 11 games. The Bruins are also battling injuries, as forward Brett Connolly (lower body) and Jimmy Hayes (undisclosed) could be game-time decisions.
Although defenseman Dennis Seidenberg is definitely out against Detroit with a lower-body injury, he has a feel for how the Bruins are going to approach the crucial game.
"Everybody's ready to play tonight, that's for sure," Seidenberg said. "Everybody's staying with it. They have to have their focus coming in and just playing their best. I think we're feeling confident here that we can win those next two games and then hopefully do something in the postseason."
Here are the projected lineups:
Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Brad Richards
Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar
Andreas Athanasiou - Luke Glendening - Tomas Jurco
Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Niklas Kronwall - Alexey Marchenko
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Green
Injured: Drew Miller (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion)
Scratched: Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brendan Smith
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Loui Eriksson
Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Max Talbot - Lee Stempniak
Frank Vatrano - Noel Acciari - Landon Ferraro
Zdeno Chara - Kevan Miller
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Colin Miller
Injured: Dennis Seidenberg (lower body), Brett Connolly (lower body), Chris Kelly (broken femur), Jimmy Hayes (undisclosed), Tyler Randell (undisclosed)
Scratched: Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow
Status report: Connolly skated Thursday but Seidenberg, Hayes and Randell did not. Seidenberg said he hasn't been on the ice since Monday. ... Talbot was an emergency recall from Providence of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. In 36 games with the Bruins this season, he has two goals, four assists and a minus-10 rating.
Who's hot: Quincey has one goal in each of the past two games. ... Eriksson has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak.