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Red Wings hit the road to challenge Blues

by Brian Hunter
RED WINGS (40-20-8) at BLUES (31-28-9)


Last 10:
Detroit 4-4-2; St. Louis 4-6-0

Season series:
Fifth of six meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. Detroit has won three of four, including a split of the previous two games at the Scottrade Center. Henrik Zetterberg of the Red Wings leads all scorers with 1 goal and 7 assists. Patrik Berglund paces the Blues with 3 goals and 3 assists.

Big story: Detroit winning at least 40 games per season is the NHL's version of death and taxes, one of those sure things you can depend on year in and year out. The Red Wings got there for the 13th consecutive season with a late rally to edge the Oilers on Friday. The victory also extended their lead for the Western Conference's No. 2 seed to three points over fellow division leader San Jose.

Team Scope:

Red Wings:
The month of March hasn't been particularly kind to Detroit, which lost its first four games and appeared headed to a fifth straight defeat at the hands of last-place Edmonton. Nicklas Lidstrom came to the rescue, however, tying the score with 24.8 seconds remaining and giving the Red Wings a chance to turn no points into two when Pavel Datsyuk tallied with 42 seconds left in overtime for a 2-1 victory.

"The last two weeks, it's almost like we were one of the worst teams in the League," Zetterberg said. "We've got to realize we're a good team. When we have our chances, got to believe in ourselves and make plays instead of just panicking and stressing and doing the wrong plays."

Blues: The odds are stacked against St. Louis reaching the playoffs this season, but one thing working in the Blues' favor is the recent return of No. 1 goalie Jaroslav Halak. The team had been struggling while relying on a tandem of rookie Ben Bishop and veteran Ty Conklin, but in Halak's two games back in net they've finished off a home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets and earned a 4-1 win Thursday over the Canadiens, his former team.

"It was an emotional game for me," said Halak, who made 27 saves. "I spent a few years in Montreal, and especially last year, we went so far in the playoffs. It was a great run, and I had a lot of fun there. But this is my new home, and I'm happy to be here."

Who's hot:
The ageless Lidstrom, who turns 41 at the end of April, has 2 goals and 5 assists in his last seven games for the Red Wings. … Andy McDonald has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last four games for the Blues. David Backes has 1 goal and 3 assists in his last three games.

Injury report:
Detroit is without defenseman Brian Rafalski (back spasms), forward Patrick Eaves (groin) and goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia). … St. Louis may have lost forward Alexander Steen (ankle) and defenseman Barret Jackman (hand) for the remainder of the season. Forwards David Perron (concussion), Philip McRae (knee) and Vladimir Sobotka (foot) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard tied Carey Price of the Canadiens and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Flames for the League lead with his 32nd victory. … Halak has 21 wins in his first season with the Blues, five shy of the career high he set last season with the Habs.

Puck drop: Everyone was focused on the goaltending matchup Thursday, but another ex-Montreal player who landed in St. Louis played a key role in the game, as Matt D'Agostini came through late in a one-goal game with an insurance tally, his career-best 14th of the season. He also had an assist.

"That Halak-Price showdown, that's what everyone was talking about," D'Agostini said. "I had my opportunities in Montreal. I'm not going to say I didn't have my opportunities, but I just have found my groove hopefully here in St. Louis."

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