The road toward what they hope is a 23rd consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs doesn't get any easier for the Detroit Red Wings.
Two nights after pulling out a key 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Red Wings return to action Thursday against the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
"They're very similar to Chicago with the skill they have and the success they have on the power play," Red Wings forward Drew Miller told MLive.com. "We just got to stay true to our system and play strong and count on [goalie Jimmy Howard] to make saves and block shots around him too."
The Red Wings are one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Each team has 14 games remaining. The Red Wings also must climb past the Washington Capitals, who are even in points with the Blue Jackets but have 12 games remaining.
Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on a broken finger, but the Red Wings are expected to have goaltender Jonas Gustavsson available to dress as Howard's backup.
Injured forwards Joakim Andersson and Daniel Cleary skated before practice. Forward Darren Helm practiced but did not take part in line rushes.
"We know [Thursday], or last game or every game we've played for a long time, the other team is going to have more skill than us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "So what? Skill doesn't win; teams win. So let's just get out there and do what we have to do."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said his lineup would be a game-time decision, but Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal after rookie Jeff Zatkoff started and beat the Dallas Stars 5-1 on Tuesday.
Here's how the Penguins and Red Wings could line up Thursday:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak
Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Joe Vitale
Brian Gibbons - Brandon Sutter - Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik - Matt Niskanen
Rob Scuderi - Olli Maatta
Robert Bortuzzo - Simon Despres
Scratched: Deryk Engelland, Jayson Megna, Taylor Pyatt
Injured: Kris Letang (stroke), Paul Martin (broken hand), Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Chris Conner (broken foot), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)
Johan Franzen - David Legwand - Daniel Alfredsson
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Todd Bertuzzi
Landon Ferraro - Cory Emmerton - Teemu Pulkkinen
Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Jakub Kindl
Injured: Jonathan Ericsson (finger), Tomas Jurco (rib), Joakim Andersson (foot), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Darren Helm (head), Daniel Cleary (knee), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Justin Abdelkader (leg)