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Wings, Jackets battle for first in Central

by Deborah Francisco
RED WINGS (13-4-2) at BLUE JACKETS (14-6-0)

TV -- FS-Detroit (HD), FS-Ohio (HD)

Last 10 -- Detroit 7-2-1; Columbus 8-2-0

Season series -- This will be the first meeting of six, and the first of two home-and-home sets between the Central Division rivals.

Big story -- The division foes each possess 28 points going into Friday’s contest, although Detroit has one game in hand. Detroit is coming off of a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers and will look to rebound against the red-hot Blue Jackets who look for their sixth-straight win.

Team Scope:

Red Wings -- The Western Conference-leading Red Wings have a two-game road losing streak, but have won eight of their last 11 overall. However, coach Mike Babcock was not pleased with his squad’s lackluster performance in Atlanta on Wednesday night, and hopes to see an overall improvement in performance against the Blue Jackets.

"This has been coming," Babcock said. "Our work ethic was not good. I don't think anyone expected us to win 82 games, but we were not ready. When you give up 19 shots in the second period, you're in trouble."

Blue Jackets -- As Columbus captain Rick Nash has hit his scoring stride this season, he has pulled the Blue Jackets along with him -- leading the club to its longest win streak since a five-game run in Dec. 2006. Prior to Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime victory over the New York Islanders, Nash notched a nine-game points streak and six-game goal streak. However, the close contest might be a warning to the Blue Jackets.

"We weren't as crisp and clean as we have been," coach Scott Arniel said. "We won against a desperate team. (Mathieu) Garon has been really good for us."

But the Jackets know a win is a win, and that's what they hope to do for the sixth straight game against the Western Conference's leading team on Friday.

Who's hot -- Todd Bertuzzi has four points in his last five games, including the lone goal in the Red Wings' last contest… RJ Umberger notched his third multi-point game of the season on Wednesday and  has 9 points in seven games for the Jackets.

Injury report -- Detroit is without netminder Chris Osgood (groin) and center Kris Draper (abdominal surgery) …Columbus is without forwards Kristian Huselius (foot) and Derek Dorsett (undisclosed) on a day-to-day basis and Ethan Moreau (hand) is out indefinitely.

Stat pack -- The Red Wings have allowed three shorthanded goals this season while Columbus has tallied two shorthanded goals.

Puck drop -- The Blue Jackets will don their new third jerseys for the first time ever Friday.

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