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Wings, Avs set for final showdown

by Deborah Francisco /
RED WINGS (27-10-5) AT AVALANCHE (21-15-6)

TV – FS-D (HD), ALT (HD)

Last 10: Detroit 7-2-1; Colorado 3-5-2.

Season Series – This is the fourth and final meeting between these Western Conference rivals. Colorado won the first meeting 5-4 in a shootout, and Detroit took the next two games with a 3-1 decision on Nov. 13 and a 4-3 overtime victory on Dec. 27. Niklas Kronwall notched the game-winner in overtime in their last meeting at the Pepsi Center.

Big Story – After the midway point in the season the question is, can anyone stop the Detroit Red Wings? Despite injuries to four key players, Detroit has won six of its last eight games, including a key victory over the League-leading Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. Colorado, meanwhile, has dropped four of its past five contests, but still sits in fifth place in the West and will be looking for two more points on Monday against a fierce rival.

Team Scope:

Red Wings – Detroit continues to execute its game plan night after night no matter who is in or not in the lineup. This was true again on Saturday night as the Wings took down the streaking Vancouver Canucks, 2-1, in a shootout -- all without five of its key players in the lineup. Jimmy Howard played a spectacular game between the pipes with 34 saves on the night.

"Many times he made impossible saves," said Johan Franzen, who tallied the game-tying goal in the third period.  "We really need that right now.”

The victory came in spite of Detroit's roster missing Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Stuart, Valterri Filppula, Dan Cleary, and Mike Modano all to injury.

"Obviously, we got some good players missing," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.  "We just talked about if we could hang around, hang around, we'd have a chance at the end and that's what we tried to do. Just keep it close and keep it tight, and we got good goaltending out of Howard."

Avalanche – Colorado has struggled to string together back-to-back wins since a six-game win streak in mid-December. The Avalanche have only won two games since that streak, but their roster is also missing several key players, including power-forward Chris Stewart. Colorado dropped a 4-3 decision to the New York Islanders on Saturday night after Milan Hejduk tied the game with four seconds left in the third period to force overtime. But Colorado was unable to capitalize in the extra frame.

At this point in the season, Colorado was happy to escape the contest with the extra point as only five points separate the fifth place team from the eleventh place team in the Western Conference standings. Colorado is currently in seventh place.

"We're fortunate right now that we're still up there. If you look at how tight it is, every point is super important," said David Jones. "The difference between fifth and 13th is only a few points, so we really have to take a look at ourselves, come out and try to take away two points every night. At the end of the season we don't want to look back and say that we missed out on a point in an overtime loss and that affected our season."

Who's Hot – Detroit LW Henrik Zetterberg has five goals and nine assists during a 10-game point streak.

Injury Report – Chris Osgood will leave the team to have his injured groin examined by a specialist in Philadelphia. ... Stuart doesn't need surgery, but will be out 6-to-8 weeks. The Red Wings also lost Filppula to a groin injury Tuesday, and are without Datsyuk, (hand), Cleary (ankle) and Modano (wrist)… For Colorado, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk blocked a shot with his foot on Saturday and did not practice on Sunday. Cody McLeod (groin) skated but did not practice with the team. Chris Stewart is practicing with the team in a non-contact jersey and Kyle Cumiskey (concussion) will not be available for Monday's contest.

Stat Pack – Peter Budaj is expected to start in net for Colorado. Budaj is 4-4-2 in 10 career games against Detroit.

Puck Drop – The rivalry between the Avalanche and Red Wings from 1996-2002 has been hailed as one of the nastiest in sports. The two squads met six times in the playoffs in that stretch. According to Adrian Dater, who chronicled the rivalry as a reporter for the Denver Post, the rivalry between the two cities was so pervasive that Colorado coach Bob Hartley and TV man John Kelly were once denied admission to a Detroit Athletic club once the owner found out who they were. The rivalry has since cooled somewhat, but diehard fans still appreciate a good Red Wings-Avalanche tilt.

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