After going through a rare rough patch on home ice, the Detroit Red Wings will try to avoid a fourth straight loss when they visit the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena.
The Red Wings will also try to regain sole possession of first place in the Central Division after St. Louis forged a tie atop the division with a win on Monday. Detroit and the Blues have each played 63 games this season and are currently four points ahead of Nashville for first place.
Detroit's three-game slide began a week ago when it lost in Chicago last Tuesday. The Red Wings then suffered their first home loss since early November when they dropped a shootout decision Thursday against Vancouver and Detroit fell to 26-3-2 as the host this season when it lost in regulation to Colorado on Saturday.
The three-game slide is Detroit's second-longest skid of the season after an 0-5-1 stretch from Oct. 22-Nov. 3.
The Red Wings fell behind 3-0 in the loss to the Avalanche before making a game of it in the third period. Detroit scored three times in the final 20 minutes, but never tied the game before losing by a 4-3 score.
"We know we didn't play well at all defensively in those first two periods," said Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
Jiri Hudler scored two of Detroit's three third-period goals, while Jimmy Howard stopped 23 shots for the Red Wings.
In addition to losing the game, Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson also suffered a fractured left wrist on Saturday and is expected to miss a month. The Red wings also lost Lidstrom to an ankle injury suffered against Colorado and the star defenseman will miss tonight's contest.
Lidstrom was hurt during Saturday's game when he was hit in the skate by a puck. Detroit's captain played the entire contest before undergoing an x-ray afterward. The 41-year-old veteran has 10 goals and 21 assists in 62 games this season, leading Detroit defensemen in scoring with 31 points.
Red Wings leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk will also sit out a fourth straight game tonight following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Detroit is just 15-16-1 as the road club this year and will be away from the Motor City for only one game. The Red Wings will host Minnesota on Friday to start a brief two-game residency.
The Blue Jackets, who are last in the NHL with 43 points, have lost three of four and nine of their last 12 meetings with Detroit. Columbus has won two of its last three home tests against the Red Wings and the Blue Jackets beat Detroit, 4-1, on Oct. 25 in the only encounter between the clubs in Ohio this season.
Columbus will have Rick Nash tonight, as the Blue Jackets were unable to trade their star forward before Monday's deadline. Nash had been mentioned in numerous trade rumors in recent weeks, but Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson ultimately decided to hold onto his franchise player.
The Blue Jackets did move forward Sami Pahlsson on Monday, sending the solid, two-way player to Vancouver for a pair of fourth-round picks in 2012. Of course, Columbus dealt disgruntled forward Jeff Carter to Los Angeles last week for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick in either 2012 or 2013.
Columbus has lost two straight and four of its last five games and is coming off Sunday's 4-2 setback in Pittsburgh. The Blue Jackets led the game 1-0 after Nash's short-handed goal midway through the second period, but the Pens tied it in the final minute of the second and then used a three-goal third period to skate away with the win.
Vinny Prospal also lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets, while Curtis Sanford was tagged for all four goals on 40 shots in defeat.
"I was really disappointed with our third period," Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said. "We talked about puck management before the game. When we needed to get the puck deep and get a play, we didn't. Turnovers fed their offense."
Columbus is 11-17-3 as the host this year and has lost two of its last three games on home ice.