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Wild put win streak on line vs. West-best Wings

by Deborah Francisco /
RED WINGS (21-9-4) at WILD (16-13-4)

TV -- FS-D+ (HD), FS-N (HD), FS-WI (HD)

Last 10 --
Detroit 4-5-1; Minnesota 5-3-2

Season Series --
This is the second of four meetings between the two Western Conference squads this season. The first match resulted in a 4-3 overtime victory for the Wild on Nov. 19 at Joe Louis Arena.

Big Story --
The Wild have worked hard to string three wins together before the Christmas break, but they will face a tough foe on Sunday as they face the top team in the West.

Team Scope:

Red Wings --
Detroit saw a two-game winning streak snapped on Thursday night in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues. It was a tough outcome that came on the heels of losing top forward Pavel Datsyuk to a broken hand he incurred in the Red Wings’ 5-4 overtime win over Vancouver on Wednesday.

"He's our go-to guy when we need a goal or to get the power play going," defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "He's going to be missed, that's for sure. That's why we need all the guys to step up."

While the loss of Datsyuk is a tough blow for Detroit, the team has plenty of depth to cover for the injured Russian center. Johan Franzen, who has 25 points on the season, will fill in for Datsyuk on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

Despite falling to the Blues on Thursday, the Red Wings are poised in first place the Western Conference and in the Central Division with a five-point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wild -- The Wild are coming off of a big 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, completing a three-game win streak before the Christmas break. Minnesota hopes to build off that momentum Sunday in Minnesota.

This success would not have been possible without the solid play of Niklas Backstrom between the pipes. Backstrom faced 15 shots in the third period alone against Colorado and turned aside 36 total in the game. The Wild have been especially pleased with Backstrom's play in their last three games.

"In Calgary we played a pretty good team game," coach Todd Richards told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "(Backstrom) had to be good in moments, mainly coming down the stretch when the score was 3-0. … But I thought the last game, he was the difference in the game. He really was. Especially in the second period when we, again, had a meltdown as far as how we want to play the game. He gave us a chance to win the game."

Who's Hot -- Lidstrom has 6 points in his last five games including his first career hat trick on Dec. 15. … Matt Cullen notched 2 goals and 1 assist in his last game and has 22 points on the season.

Injury Report --
Datsyuk is out indefinitely with a broken wrist and forward Mike Modano (wrist) is on injured reserve. … Minnesota is without defenseman Nick Schultz until at least after Christmas, according to the Star-Tribune, because of an undisclosed head injury.

Stat Pack -- Detroit goalie Chris Osgood, with 399 wins, has come up empty in his first two attempts to become the 10th goalie in NHL history to record 400 for his career.

Puck Drop --
Only 16 points separate the top team from the bottom in the log-jammed Western Conference, while Minnesota trails Detroit by 10 points.

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