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Wild, Wings meet one last time

by Tal Pinchevsky
WILD (37-33-8) at RED WINGS (45-23-10)

TV -- FS-North (HD), FS-Detroit+ (HD)

Last 10 -- Minnesota 2-7-1; Detroit 5-3-2.

Season series -- The Wings and Wild split their first two meetings this season before their last meeting on Feb. 20 in Minnesota. That night, Martin Havlat’s third-period goal tied the game 1-1 just 3:40 after Nicklas Lidstrom opened the scoring. Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi proceeded to score in the shootout as Detroit topped Minnesota 2-1. This game will close the teams' season series.

Big story -- The Wild are no longer statistically eligible to make the playoffs, thanks mostly to their recent season-long eight-game losing streak. A modest two-game win streak momentarily put them back in the postseason hunt, but they will be attempting to play spoiler the rest of the way. The Wings have punched their ticket to the postseason for a 20th straight year and now have their sights set on clinching the Central Division, which they can do with a win over the Wild.

Team Scope:

Wild -- Minnesota contested for a playoff spot most of the season, but a 4-8-2 record in March effectively ended their quest to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. They still had a shot at the postseason until they opened April with a home loss to Tampa Bay.

After taking a first-period lead against the Lightning thanks to a goal from Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the Wild allowed three unanswered goals in dropping a 3-1 decision. The Wild outshot Tampa Bay 11-4 in the third but couldn’t beat Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, whose 29-save performance officially eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs.

"It's always tough," said goalie Niklas Backstrom of being eliminated from the postseason. "It's going to be a long time before we have another chance to fight for the Cup."

Red Wings -- A four-game win streak in March indicated the Red Wings might be primed for another deep playoff run, but five losses in six games halted that premature postseason talk. The most disappointing of those losses came on Wednesday, when the Wings allowed 10 goals from nine different scorers in a 10-3 rout at home against divisional-rival St. Louis.

On Saturday against Nashville, the team directly behind the Wings in the Central-Division standings, Detroit bounced back nicely from the lackluster performance against the Blues. After the Predators raced out to a 3-0 lead, Justin Abdelkader scored twice, including the tying goal, to send the game to overtime. It was in the extra period that Danny Cleary potted the game-winner, giving him his first 25-goal season.

Who's hot -- Bouchard has 3 points in his current three-game point streak for the Wild. … In Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg has 5 points in his current four-game point streak while Brian Rafalski has 5 points in his last four games. Wings captain NIcklas Lidstrom has 6 points in his last six games.

Injury report -- For the Wild, Cam Barker, Marek Zidlicky, and Nick Schultz are all questionable with various ailments while John Madden (lower body), Marco Scandella (finger), Guillaume Latendresse (lower body), Josh Harding (ACL/MCL), and James Sheppard (knee) are out. … Chris Osgood (groin), Niklas Kronwall (shoulder), and Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) are out for the Wings.

Stat pack -- Lidstrom has now made the playoffs in each of his 19 seasons and could reach some potential career milestones this spring. One more playoff point would give him 176 for his career, allowing him to pass Denis Savard and tie Jean Beliveau and former teammate Sergei Fedorov for 13th all-time. Next in line would be Ray Bourque with 180 career playoff points. If the Wings make an extended playoff run and Lidstrom plays in 20 more playoff games, he will pass another former teammate, Chris Chelios, for the most all time.

Puck drop -- The win over Nashville allowed the Wings to extend what might be the League's most impressive team record. With the victory, Detroit reached the 100-point plateau for the 11th straight season and the 14th time since the 1992-93 season.
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