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Red Wings won't rest on laurels as playoffs approach

by Brian Hedger

DETROIT -- Now that a 23rd straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is assured, the Detroit Red Wings can afford to rest some legs in the final two games of the regular season.

They're just not planning to exercise that option. Heading into a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), the Red Wings are planning to stick with the same lineup they've used of late.

The lone exception will be on the bench. Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek will back up starter Jimmy Howard in the absence of Jonas Gustavsson, who hurt his shoulder in the playoff-clinching 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We want to keep winning," Red Wings veteran forward Johan Franzen said after the morning skate. "We want to win these last two games and maybe climb up a spot. So, that's our focus right now."

Detroit will conclude the regular season Sunday at the St. Louis Blues, who are suddenly locked in a battle with the Colorado Avalanche for the top spot in the Central Division. The Red Wings won't get one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division, but will occupy one of two wild-card openings in the Eastern Conference.

Who they'll face in the first round depends on which spot they get. Detroit will start the postseason at the Boston Bruins with the second wild card and at the Pittsburgh Penguins with the top wild-card slot.

"I think it's more we want to keep the winning going and come into the playoffs with a good feeling," Franzen said. "Even if you say a loss [in these two games] doesn't matter, it's still a loss and we all want to win all the time. You feel worse after you lose than after a win, so we want to keep building our confidence and keep playing good."

The Hurricanes (34-35-11), who have been eliminated from the postseason, have lost three straight games. That includes a 5-2 defeat against the Washington Capitals in their home finale Thursday at PNC Arena. They did not hold a morning skate Friday and will conclude the season Sunday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Hurricanes did make one transaction Friday morning. They recalled forward Zach Boychuk from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis. It's uncertain where the 24-year old Boychuk slots into the lineup if he plays. Boychuk leads the AHL with 36 goals, is second with 72 points in 66 games and has four points (one goal and three assists) in 10 NHL games this season.

The Hurricanes' goalie is uncertain after starter Anton Khudobin allowed all five goals against the Capitals in the home finale Thursday at PNC Arena.

Here are the projected lineups:


Eric Staal - Jordan Staal - Alexander Semin

Jeff Skinner - Elias Lindholm - Jiri Tlusty

Andrei Loktionov - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer

Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak

Justin Faulk - Ron Hainsey

Brett Bellemore - John-Michael Liles

Jay Harrison - Mike Komisarek

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratched: Zach Boychuk

Injured: Andrej Sekera (lower body), Nathan Gerbe (upper body), Joni Pitkanen (heel)


Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader

Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist

Tomas Jurco - Darren Helm - Daniel Alfredsson

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - David Legwand

Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith

Kyle Quincey - Danny DeKeyser

Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Scratched: Joakim Andersson, Todd Bertuzzi

Injured: Jonas Gustavsson (shoulder), Henrik Zetterberg (back), Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Daniel Cleary (knee sprain)

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