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Wild return home to host Red Wings

by Eric Goodman

RED WINGS (24-17-8) AT WILD (24-23-3)

Last 10 -- Detroit 5-3-2; Minnesota 4-6-0

Season series -- This is the first of four meetings between the Wings and Wild. Detroit won three of the four games between the teams in 2008-09.

Big story -- The Red Wings have struggled through a season marred by injuries, but they can at least be confident that they are facing the Wild, a team that they have compiled a 21-5-5 record with one tie against since Minnesota joined the NHL as an expansion franchise in 2000. However, both the Wings and Wild will be seeking to end respective current three-game losing streaks.

Team Scope:

Red Wings -- While most of the NHL world is still waiting for the perennial contender Red Wings to finally start making their way up the Western Conference standings; Detroit has failed to string together a winning streak of more than four games so far this season. However, since the playoff race is so packed, the Wings are a mere two points away from jumping from ninth place in the West into a cluster of teams in sixth through eighth places.

But if the Wings want to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season, they can't afford losses like Tuesday night's 3-2 defeat at Washington, a game in which they outplayed and outshot (46-23) the Capitals but couldn't hold a third-period lead.

Wild -- Minnesota returns to the XcelEnergyCenter after losing all three games on their most recent road trip, culminating with a 4-3 defeat at Dallas on Monday. The Wild had won all four games on their most recent homestand before hitting the road and are 16-6-1 in the Twin Cities this season.

Unlike Detroit, the Wild have little margin for error moving forward -- their 51 points are 12th in the West with the eighth and final playoff spot, seven points out of a playoff spot.

Who's hot -- Defenseman Brian Rafalski has scored in three consecutive games (2-1-3) for Detroit. The Wild's Guillaume Latendresse has eight points over his last five games.

Injury report -- The Wings are still without Tomas Holmstrom (broken foot), Niklas Kronwall (knee), Jason Williams (broken leg) and Johan Franzen (knee). On injured reserve for Minnesota is defensemen Clayton Stoner (groin) and Brent Burns (concussion), as well as forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Chuck Kobasew (sprained MCL/ACL).

Stat pack -- Detroit is 10-3-1-1 all-time at XcelEnergyCenter. The Wild can accomplish a season-high fifth consecutive win at home with a victory over Detroit.

Puck drop -- Both the Wings and Wild are desperate to find some sort of consistency this season. With neither club currently in the top eight, fans can expect a hard-fought, high-energy contest. The Wild should definitely be a bit more confident in returning home for a three-game homestand, so perhaps that might give them the spark they need to take down a Detroit team that has given them fits in their history as a franchise.

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