Both Detroit (74 points) and Calgary (73 points) are nipping at the heels of the current No. 7 seed, Nashville Predators, who have 75 points.
A Wings’ victory Tuesday over Calgary would enable them to leapfrog Nashville and put some distance between them and the Flames, who they face again next Monday at Pengrowth Saddledome.
But Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t like to view the playoff race as being solely between Detroit and Calgary. He believes that getting more teams involved will give the Wings a better chance to get in the post-season because of their influx of players who have recovered from injuries.
The Wings finally have a full, healthy lineup. Pair that with the Olympic break, and the Wings have the ability to wear down more teams than just Calgary.
“If we can reel in a couple more teams, because rather than Calgary fighting Detroit for the last playoff spot, if you can get Nashville involved and then one more,” Babcock said. “I think you’ve got a better chance if you get two or three or four teams involved than just two.”
While Babcock is looking at the big picture, his players are focused solely on the Flames, gearing up for what will surely be an intense battle. While the Wings are coming off two big wins over Nashville and Chicago, they know they have to keep playing with desperation.
“That sense of urgency has to stay with us. It really does,” forward Kris Draper said. “We win (Tuesday), we leapfrog an opponent, keep Calgary a little bit behind us. But with that said, they’re coming off a big win themselves, and they win that game and they’re closing the gap on us.”
Detroit is 1-1-0 against Calgary this season, and this is the first time the Wings will see the Flames’ revamped lineup. Their most notable trades were getting Matt Stajan, Ian White
and Niklas Hagman in exchange for Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen.
“Calgary’s doing the exact same thing we’re doing, fighting for their playoff lives,” Draper said. “With that, you expect a very intense hockey game tonight with both teams trying to do whatever it takes to win a hockey game and get two points and move on.”
Defenseman Niklas Kronwall
knows the result of Tuesday’s game will be huge, seeing as the two teams see each other again on Monday.
“It’s more, you know, if you want to call it a four-point game,” Kronwall said.
“It’s a big game, definitely. We’re doing everything we can to come in here very prepared, and hopefully we can come out with a good push from the start.”
The Wings hope to do to Calgary’s young snipers on Tuesday that they did to Chicago’s on Sunday. The Wings held both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to minus-three, the first time that’s happened to the Blackhawks’ young duo all season.
The Wings would like to inflict the same squeeze on the Flames snipers Rene Bourque, Stajan and Hagman, along with their captain Jarome Iginla.
Dating back to March 2004, the Wings have held Iginla scoreless in 19 straight regular-season games. However, he is coming into Tuesday’s game fresh off a hat trick in a win over Minnesota on Sunday. Bourque also finished with a four-point effort.
The key to shutting down players like Iginla will be to take away their time and space. The top defensive pairing – Nicklas Lidstrom
and Brian Rafalski – will more than likely match up against Calgary’s first line of Iginla, Stajan and Bourque. The Wings must do a good job of staying in the passing lanes if they hope to disrupt the Flames.
“They’re really good with the puck, and they can make things happen out of nothing,” Kronwall said. “We got to eliminate the chances of them firing the puck to the net. Most of the time, I’m sure it’s going to be Nick and Rafi against those guys, we have to make sure we’re staying on top of them as much as possible.”ERICSSON IN, LEBDA OUT:
Babcock has decided to shake-up his defensive pairings for Tuesday, sending Jonathan Ericsson
in to replace Brett Lebda.
Lebda’s chemistry with Andreas Lilja earned him a spot in the lineup for the Wings’ past two games, but Babcock doesn’t want Ericsson to sit for too long. Both Lebda and Ericsson play well with Lilja, and Babcock plans to rotate both of them in as much as possible.
“I think what we’ll do is try to keep everybody alive there as far as that goes,” Babcock said. “So I don’t know if that’s a one-in, one-out or two, but I don’t want it to be a week and a half at a time.”BERT’S BACK:
Forward Todd Bertuzzi
, who suffered a charley horse in his left leg on Sunday after being sandwiched between two Chicago forwards, was on the ice during Tuesday’s morning skate.
Bertuzzi took Monday off to give his leg an extra day of rest, but feels fine now and is looking forward to Tuesday’s game.
He spent the 2008-09 season with the Flames, notching 44 points in 66 games.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Bertuzzi said. “They’re in the same position we are, and we’ve seemed to have pretty exciting games in the past. I think (Tuesday) will be no exception.”