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Red Wings start trip in Buffalo

by John Kreiser /
RED WINGS (37-18-6) at SABRES (29-25-6)

TV -- FD-Detroit (HD); MSG-B (HD)

Last 10 -- Detroit 6-4-0; Buffalo 6-3-1

Season series -- The inter-conference rivals are meeting for the only time this season. The Wings won 3-2 in a shootout at Detroit last March 13 in the only meeting of 2009-10

Big story -- The Wings, one of the NHL's best road teams, start a five-game trip after a pair of disappointing home losses this week. The Sabres will be right behind them -- this concludes a six-game homestand for the Sabres, who need the win because they play the next seven on the road.

Team Scope:

Red Wings -- The Wings, battered by injuries this season, have reinforcements on the way. Center Mike Modano expects to return after missing three months with a severely cut wrist, and Valtteri Filppula hopes to play after missing eight games with a knee injury.

"I feel pretty good about it right now," Filppula told the team's website. "It's an important road trip for us, (we) definitely need some wins out of there.

Sabres -- More crash and less flash has helped the Sabres find their game. After losing the first three games of their six-game homestand, Buffalo has outhit and outhustled Atlanta (4-1 on Wednesday) and Ottawa (4-2 on Friday) to get within three points of eighth-place Carolina with two games in hand.

"You're going to have to find different ways to get goals, get pucks to the net, and play well defensively," forward Mike Grier said after the win against Ottawa.

Who's hot -- After a poor showing in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Islanders on Feb. 13, Ryan Miller hasn't allowed more than two goals in his next five starts. Thomas Vanek has points in three consecutive games.

Injury report -- Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski will miss the game with back spasms. Patrick Eaves (groin) didn't make the trip. … Sabres forward Derek Roy suffered a season-ending leg injury but the rest of the team is healthy.

Stat pack -- Detroit has won 11 of the last 14 meetings between the teams.

Puck drop -- Detroit's Johan Franzen was among the NHL leaders with 26 goals after scoring five times against Ottawa on Feb. 2. He hasn't scored since. Franzen has gone 11 games without a goal. But Franzen has bigger things on his mind -- his wife is due to give birth on Saturday. He plans to play in Buffalo, though he'll rush home if she goes into labor. He won't go to Los Angeles for Monday night's game.

"For a guy like Mule, he's having his first one, it's as special as it comes, so we wish him well," coach Mike Babcock said Friday. "It's real important (to be there). I didn't miss the birth of any of my kids and I'm thankful for the opportunity of being there. It's much more important than hockey.''

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