TAMPA - If there's one team that should motivate the Red Wings, it's the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Wings have lost all four games against the Lightning this season and have not won in Tampa since Feb. 17, 2011.
Plus the Lightning have eliminated the Wings from the playoffs the last two seasons.
Add in the fact that the Lightning are just three points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild-card spot and the Wings are perfectly positioned to play the role of spoiler.
"It's been tough the last few years, getting knocked out by them," Darren Helm said. "We have an opportunity to kind of make it a little harder on them to get in, so I think it would be a little nice. But you look at things this late in the season to motivate you, I think that's one of them."
However, Wings coach Jeff Blashill said that isn't the team's main focus.
"Our focus is on our team and continuing to make sure we play for this culture, that we maintain it, so the spot we're in never happens again," Blashill said. "That's our biggest focus."
Part of that culture is giving it your all regardless of what the circumstances are.
"I think we're battling pretty hard," Helm said. "We're not just throwing in the towel yet. Obviously we're knocked out but we still want to compete and play hard and do good things that can kind of carry over, good habits for next year."
The Lightning have never swept a regular-season series against the Wings.
"They're a good team," Gustav Nyquist acknowledged. "Obviously got some real good players. Their defensemen are really good, (Victor) Hedman's been a beast for them this year for sure. He's having a great year for them. But we've played pretty good hockey down the stretch here the last few games, racked up some wins, too.
"We're not going to lay down and die out there. We're still battling just for the honor of the team and the logo on our chest. We said we want to finish this season off strong so we're not going to play easy or anything like that. This is a big game for us. We want to win for sure."
LIGHTER LIGHTNING: Although he took part in an optional morning skate, Lightning star Steven Stamkos will not play against the Wings.
Stamkos is close to returning from his November knee surgery.
The Lightning will also be without forwards Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette and defenseman Jason Garrison, all with lower-body injuries.
But the Lightning still have Nikita Kucherov, who is in the middle of a career year with career-highs in goals with 38, assists with 42 and points with 80.
"He competes hard, he's got a lot of talent and he's got a knack for finding the back of the net, three pretty dangerous attributes that a player has, not to mention other things that he does very well on the ice," Helm said. "He's a good player."
Then there's Kucherov's knack for scoring big goals against the Wings, including his overtime winner March 24 in Detroit.
For his career, Kucherov has seven goals and five assists in 15 regular-season games against the Wings.
ATHANASIOU QUESTIONABLE: Andreas Athanasiou participated in the Wings' morning skate, alternating with Ben Street on the fourth line.
Blashill said Athanasiou will be a game-time decision.
Athanasiou was hurt while scoring the game-winning goal in overtime Monday in Carolina and missed Tuesday's game.
GLENDENING OUT: Luke Glendening is done for the season.
Glendening suffered a fractured ankle/foot in Monday night's game in Carolina and is now wearing a boot.
"Very disappointed," Blashill said. "He's a heart and soul guy, somebody that gives you everything he's got. He's had three years in a row that, going into the offseason, even though he was able to finish the year, he's had issues. That's not easy on your training. It's got to be disappointing for sure."
Glendening, 27, finishes with three goals and 11 assists in 74 games.
No decision has been made yet on whether Glendening will require surgery.