Things have not gone well for the Detroit Red Wings in bound New York Rangers hope to continue that trend tonight, when the Blueshirts host their struggling Original Six rival at Madison Square Garden.
The Red Wings enter tonight on a five-game losing streak, the club's longest skid since a six-game slide from Oct. 22-Nov. 3. Detroit's drought began with an 0-3-1 road trip and continued at home, where the Red Wings were dealt a 5-3 loss on Monday by Alex Ovechkin and the desperate Washington Capitals.
Thanks to the current losing streak and a 2-6-1 record this month, the Red Wings have dropped into a tie with Nashville for the fourth seed in the Western Conference, where they sit just two points in front of Chicago. Detroit and the Predators are also eight points behind St. Louis for first place in the Central Division.
Ovechkin netted two of Washington's three first-period goals and the Capitals held leads of 3-0 and 4-1 before holding on for the victory at the Joe. Detroit has lost four of six home tests since an NHL-record 23-game home winning streak. The Red Wings are still 28-5-2 in the Motor City this season compared to a 16-20-2 mark on the road.
Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary lit the lamp in Monday's loss for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard stopped 17 shots.
The Red Wings did manage to record its first power-play goal since Feb. 28, as it went 1-for-3 on the man advantage to snap an 0-for-31 drought.
"Well thank God," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said about ending the power-play funk. "It's been the longest I've ever seen our power play not be very good for a long time. We haven't generated much offense. It was good to see us get one."
Howard, Detroit's No. 1 goaltender, will miss tonight's game with a groin injury, joining regular backup Joey MacDonald (back spasms) on the shelf. That means either veteran backstop Ty Conklin or rookie Jordan Pearce will get the start tonight. Pearce, an undrafted 25-year-old, has never seen action in an NHL game and will only get the start if Conklin doesn't get claimed off re- entry waivers. Conklin was recalled on an emergency basis from Grand Rapids of the AHL, but needed to offered up on waivers before being cleared to play tonight.
The Red Wings will also be without captain and top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom for an 11th straight game tonight. Lidstrom is dealing with a bone bruise in his right ankle and could return Saturday when Detroit returns home to face Carolina.
Meanwhile, the Rangers, who lead the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division by just one point over Pittsburgh, ended a two-game slide with Monday's 4-2 victory over the visiting New Jersey Devils. Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan posted a goal and an assist apiece to lead the Blueshirts to the win in the clash between Atlantic Division rivals.
The victory clinched a playoff berth for the Rangers as the team became just the second in the NHL and first in the Eastern Conference to earn a spot in the postseason. The previous two seasons had seen the Rangers' playoff fate hinge on the final day of the season.
"It's definitely a foreign feeling not coming down to the last day," said Dubinsky. "This is a lot easier on everyone here."
Dan Girardi and Mats Zuccarello each scored a goal for the Rangers, who had dropped five of their last seven entering Monday's test. Henrik Lundqvist posted 20 saves in the win.
New York played its second straight game without forward Artem Anisimov (shoulder) and defenseman Steve Eminger (undisclosed). Both players are questionable for tonight.
Tonight's tilt marks the sixth test of a seven-game homestand for the Rangers. New York is 3-2 on the residency and 25-9-2 in the Big Apple this season.
The Rangers will complete the homestand Friday against Buffalo before heading out on a three-game road trip.