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Wild, Red Wings begin key home-and-home series

by Dan Myers /

RED WINGS (32-24-13) at WILD (36-23-11)


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

Season series: This is the first game of the season between the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings, who will play a home-and-home set this weekend. The Wild went 2-1-0 against the Red Wings last season, when both teams played in the Western Conference.

Big story: Each team is locked in a tight Stanley Cup Playoff race with less than a month remaining in the regular season. The Red Wings are coming off a 5-4 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, while the Wild also went to overtime, falling 4-3 to the New Jersey Devils.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: Detroit has won three of its past four games, putting itself squarely in the wild-card conversation in the Eastern Conference. The Red Wings are tied with the Washington Capitals, one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and three in back of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the wild-card teams in the East. Detroit has two games in hand on the Capitals, Rangers and Maple Leafs. Detroit and Washington each have a four-point cushion on the 10th-place New Jersey Devils.

Detroit got some puck luck Thursday when a Daniel Alfredsson shot deflected off a Penguins defenseman and past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with less than a second remaining in overtime, giving the Red Wings the win and a crucial extra point in the standings.

"We made some mistakes, they made some mistakes, but we stayed with it and found a way to win a game," coach Mike Babcock said. "That was a big win for us."

Wild: Minnesota has won twice in its past eight games but has seen its footing in the Western Conference playoff race actually get stronger. Riding a five-game winning streak on the morning of March 8, the Wild were six points clear of the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes. Despite winning only two games since then, the Wild are currently eight points ahead of the now ninth-place Dallas Stars. Minnesota lost seven times in overtime or the shootout between the start of the season and early March. The Wild have lost in four such instances in the last two weeks. While it hasn't been pretty, it's been effective.

"There's a little bit of a silver lining, but we've got to turn the corner and start winning of these games that go into the extra time," forward Zach Parise said following the loss to the Devils. "You still have the loss, but who knows, down the road they could be important points."

Who's hot: Alfredsson scored two goals Thursday against Pittsburgh and has three in two games. He carries a three-game point streak into the game Saturday. The 41-year old has 17 goals and 25 assists this season and is a plus-3. ... A scoring change Friday took a goal away from Parise in his return to New Jersey. Instead, the goal went to defenseman Ryan Suter. Forward Jason Pominville, originally held scoreless in the game, was awarded the second assist on the play -- an assist which revived his scoring streak, now at seven games. Pominville has four goals and four assists during the streak and the assist Thursday was the 300th of his NHL career.

Injury report: The Red Wings have been battling injuries all season and are expected to be without 10 regulars Saturday. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger) and forwards 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) and Justin Abdelkader (leg) are out. … The Wild will be without forward Jason Zucker (lower body) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal). Defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) missed practice Friday and is likely to sit out.

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