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Red Wings ready to face desperate 'Canes

by Frank Mentesana
RED WINGS (46-23-10) at HURRICANES (38-30-11)

TV: FS-D (HD), FS-CR (HD).

Last 10: Detroit 5-3-2; Carolina 7-2-1.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting this season between the clubs. The last time they faced each other was on Jan. 14, 2010 in Detroit, and on that night the Red Wings came away with a 3-1 win behind 37 saves from Jimmy Howard. The Wings have won three straight over Carolina and hold a decided advantage in the series over the last 12 years, going 9-2-1 with a tie, dating back to Jan. 21, 1999.

Big Story: While this game isn't a must-win contest mathematically for the Hurricanes, they can't treat it like anything less if they want to still be playing past this Sunday. They sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Rangers for the final playoff spot. The one thing the 'Canes have going for them is they have three games remaining on the schedule, while the Rangers have just two.

As for the Red Wings, they wrapped up yet another Central Division title with a 4-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. They still have something to play for though, as they are jostling with the San Jose Sharks for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Each club has three games to play, and the Wings have 102 points to San Jose's 103.
Team Scope:

Red Wings: Despite numerous injuries this season, Detroit still captured its ninth Central crown in 10 years and its 14th since 1991-92. That was Nicklas Lidstrom's rookie season, and the captain is still contributing in a big way for the Wings, notching his 16th goal in the division-clinching victory on Sunday.

"I've got a few of those," Lidstrom joked after the win, gesturing toward a red Central Division championship T-shirt and black baseball cap. "We're in a tough division with Nashville and Chicago, so it always matters to finish first."

Hurricanes: When a team is on the outside looking in this time of the year, what happens hundreds of miles away could still have a major impact. On Monday at Madison Square Garden, it appeared as if the Bruins would take care of the Rangers after going ahead 3-0 midway through the matchup. However, five unanswered goals from New York resulted in a 5-3 Rangers' win and two more points in the standings for the Blueshirts -- and two more points separating the Hurricanes from a playoff position.   

"At 3-0 you feel pretty good, but then it's like a horror movie that goes on and on," Jussi Jokinen said about the Rangers' comeback victory against Boston.

"We've talked about this roller coaster, but now it's even worse when you're watching other teams," said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice. "At 3-0 you're thinking, 'Well, we're back in the fight and we can be in eighth in 24 hours,' and then you watch that. That was a little frustrating."

As crushing as the Rangers' win was, the 'Canes failed to take care of their own business a day earlier against another playoff contender in Raleigh. Carolina lost to the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in overtime, as two players the 'Canes never would have thought would be responsible for damaging their playoff hopes might have done exactly that. Rookie goalie Jhonas Enroth made 35 saves before Marc-Andre Gragnani scored his first NHL goal 2:56 into OT to stun everyone at the RBC Center.

Who's Hot: Carolina captain Eric Staal has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last six games. …For Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg has 7 points in his current five-game point streak, while Brian Rafalski has 7 points in his last five games and Lidstrom has 7 points in his last six.

Injury Report: Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk returned from a lower-body injury against the Wild on Sunday, playing for the first time since March 17. Jimmy Howard also looks strong, starting on back-to-back nights over the weekend and winning both games, after missing two because of an injured left shoulder. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) will miss a third straight game Wednesday, and Chris Osgood (groin) remains sidelined. …On the Carolina side, Jay Harrison continues to nurse the upper-body injury that has kept him out of the last four games, although has not been ruled out for Wednesday's game.

Stat Pack: Detroit is 12-3-2 against the East, the NHL's best inter-conference record. … Staal scored the Hurricanes' lone goal versus Buffalo on Sunday, becoming the third player in franchise history with 500 points, and the only one to register all of them with the Hurricanes. Ron Francis and Kevin Dineen also hit the milestone after spending time with the Hartford Whalers.

Puck Drop: Red Wings center Mike Modano was a healthy scratch in their win against Minnesota. Interestingly enough, Modano has played 1,496 games and Detroit has just three left in the regular season.

"We didn't bring him here to get 1,500 games," coach Mike Babcock said. "We brought him to win the (Stanley) Cup. I think he'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer no matter what."

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