RED WINGS (42-25-13) at CANADIENS (48-22-10)
TV: RDS, SNE, CITYM, FS-D
MONTREAL -- The Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens have distinctly different clinching scenarios for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs riding on the outcome of their game at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS, SNE, CITYM), as well as three other Eastern Conference games on Thursday.
Detroit would clinch a playoff berth for a 24th straight season if they defeat Montreal for the first time in four games this season, or if the Ottawa Senators lose their game at the New York Rangers in regulation. The Red Wings can also clinch with an overtime or shootout loss to the Canadiens if Ottawa loses in any fashion, or if the Boston Bruins lose in regulation against the Florida Panthers.
Goalie Jimmy Howard will start his second game in a row after making 30 saves in Detroit's 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, and said he has no intention of checking out of town scores during the game.
"I really don't pay attention to the boards, to that part," Howard said. "We've just got to take care of our own business. We control our own destiny and it's no different here (Thursday)."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he is also focused on his team's preparation, rather than clinching scenarios involving other games. Two players Detroit will need to produce are young forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar.
"Well I think Nyquist has kind of got his game back here," said Babcock. "I don't think (Tatar) has been as good lately but I think there's also ebb and flow of the season and (Tatar) has to simplify now. And when you're a guy who perceives yourself as a scorer and you don't score, don't overthink things, don't over-handle the puck, shoot the puck, get it in, get on the forecheck; get to the net. I think (Nyquist) has done a better job of winning his battles, getting pucks back, setting himself up to have the puck.
"You know, as a scorer, it's great if everyone else gets it to you, but it's better if you go get it yourself, then you have the puck twice as often so that's the priority for those kids."
The Canadiens have already secured one of the top two spots in the Atlantic Division. They can clinch first place in the division if they win against Detroit and the Tampa Bay Lighnting lose to the New Jersey Devils. Montreal would also clinch the Atlantic title with a regulation or shootout loss to the Red Wings if Tampa Bay loses in regulation.
Canadiens scoring leader Max Pacioretty has an upper-body injury and will not face Detroit, or the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday in Montreal's final regular season game.
"I don't think that's where your focus can be," Gallagher said. "I think we have to be focused on executing our game plan. It's part of sport. You're going to be without guys for part of your season and for us right now it comes at a tough time, but at the same time it's an opportunity for guys to step up and take on that responsibility that Max has had and done a very good job of every single game this season. We know it's not going to be easy, it's going to be a challenge, but I think the guys in this room are up for that."
Here are the projected lineups:
Darren Helm - Pavel Datsyuk - Henrik Zetterberg
Gustav Nyquist - Riley Sheahan - Tomas Tatar
Stephen Weiss - Joakim Andersson - Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Landon Ferraro
Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyser - Kyle Quincey
Brendan Smith - Marek Zidlicky
Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Jakub Kindl
Injured: Justin Abdelkader (hand), Tomas Jurco (upper body), Johan Franzen (concussion), Erik Cole (spinal contusion)
Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher
Devante Smith-Pelly - David Desharnais - Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
Jacob De La Rose - Lars Eller - Dale Weise
Brandon Prust - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn
Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert
Scratched: Manny Malhotra, Sergei Gonchar, Greg Pateryn, Mike Weaver
Injured: Max Pacioretty (upper body)
Status report: Babcock confirmed that he will use the same lineup as Tuesday, though in a little bit different order. Asked if he could say what he was switching around, Babcock said, "Just a couple of right wingers, no big deal. I'll watch in warm-up; if I like it, I'll change it."
Who's hot: Datsyuk has a goal and two assists in his past two games. … Petry has two goals and three assists during a five-game points streak.