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Red Wings go for home-and-home sweep of Capitals

by Brian Hedger

RED WINGS (24-19-11) at CAPITALS (24-22-9)


Last 10: Detroit 5-4-1; Washington 2-6-2

Season series: This is the final regular-season game between the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals. They've split the first two in Detroit, both in shootouts: The Capitals won 4-3 Nov. 15 at Joe Louis Arena and the Red Wings prevailed by the same score in a tiebreaker Friday night.

Big story: The Capitals (57 points) have four teams but two points between themselves and the Red Wings (59 points) for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference field for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Detroit, aiming to make it 23 straight seasons qualifying for the playoffs, is trying to fight off a horde of injuries and a pack of teams.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: In addition to overcoming a late goal scored by Joel Ward on Friday and winning in a shootout, the Red Wings also got some encouraging news on the health front. Captain Henrik Zetterberg (back) and goaltender Jimmy Howard (knee) each returned from his latest injury absence to help secure the victory.

Even better was the fact neither reported a setback when they work up the following day. Detroit is still waiting for similar news about power forward Johan Franzen (concussion) and center Pavel Datsyuk (lower body). Franzen returned for one game after missing 16 straight and went right back to injured reserve. Datsyuk hasn't played since the 2014 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, held Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.

"I don't know," Babcock said of Datsyuk's return, according to's Brendan Savage. "I'm just like [reporters]. I just keep asking."

Capitals: Since breaking a five-game losing skid with back-to-back wins, the Capitals are looking to rebound again after dropping two straight.

Brooks Laich might miss the game Sunday with tightness in his groin that forced him to leave early on Friday, but defenseman Mike Green could return from a head injury that sidelined him for much of last week. If Laich can't play, the Capitals' depth down the middle suffers with Mikhail Grabovski also out.

Getting more extended playing time is 26-year old Casey Wellman, who centers the fourth line and scored in the third period against the Red Wings on Friday to tie the game at 2-2.

"He's a very quick player,” Oates told the Washington Post. "Obviously teams don't know him so there's always a learning curve, but he's contributed for us, he's played pretty good and he's gotten a lot of minutes, so it's kind of a win-win."

Who's hot: Detroit forward Gustav Nyquist has scored a goal in five of the past six games and forward Patrick Eaves has one goal and three points in his past five games. ... Washington captain Alex Ovechkin has scored three goals and has eight points in his past four games.

Injury report: Detroit is missing Datsyuk, Franzen, center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and center Cory Emmerton (finger), all of whom are on IR. … Washington defenseman Jack Hillen (leg fracture) is on IR, Grabovski (leg) has missed the past four games, Laich (groin) is questionable and Green (concussion) hopes to play.

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