The Detroit Red Wings recorded a rout in the opener of their home-and-home series with Columbus and they'll go for the sweep when they visit the Blue Jackets tonight at Nationwide Arena.
Detroit had lost six straight (0-4-2) before notching Saturday's 5-4 regulation win against visiting Carolina and the Red Wings followed that triumph with a 7-2 thrashing of Columbus at Joe Louis Arena on Monday.
This evening's matchup marks the sixth and final encounter between the Red Wings and Columbus this season. Detroit has taken four of five from the Blue Jackets this season and has claimed five of six in the series overall. Columbus, which is already ensured of finishing the 2011-12 season with NHL's lowest point total, has dropped two of three and four of its last six home tests against the Red Wings.
While Columbus has nothing to play for, the Red Wings, who clinched a playoff berth with Monday's win over the Jackets, are running out of time in the Central Division race. Detroit is eight points behind St. Louis with just six games left in the regular season.
The Red Wings are also just one point ahead of Nashville for the fourth seed in the West. Detroit has a game in hand to use against the idle Predators tonight.
Tomas Holmstrom had two goals to pace a balanced offensive attack for Detroit in Monday's blowout win in the Motor City. The victory secured Detroit a spot in the postseason for a franchise-record 21st consecutive season.
"It's a big win for our team and we've got ourselves in the playoffs for the 21st time in a row and that's a positive thing," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told his team's official website. "Now we have come back on Wednesday and play better because we have to get better, we have to be feeling good about our game going in."
Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist, while Gustav Nyquist, Jiri Hudler, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart all scored for the Red Wings.
Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi had four helpers apiece, while Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula chipped in with two assists each. Ty Conklin turned away 24 shots in the victory.
On the injury front, forward Johan Franzen is expected to return tonight for the Red Wings after missing the previous four games with back spasms. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who has been out since Feb. 25 with a chip fracture in his left wrist, is questionable for tonight.
Detroit's top goaltender Jimmy Howard could be back for Friday's game, but he isn't expected to dress tonight. Howard has missed the last three games with a groin injury.
Rick Nash had a goal and an assist for Columbus in Monday's loss and Mark Letestu also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have lost three of their last four games. Steve Mason was torched for six goals on 28 shots, while Allen York gave up one goal on 11 shots.
"We were just outworked, outskated, outbattled, however you want to describe it," Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said. "We gave them some easy goals, some slam dunks, some tap-ins, but it came down to playing smart and playing hard, and we didn't do either."
Columbus has lost three of its last four home games and is 14-21-3 as the host this year. The Red Wings have struggled all season long on the road and are 16-20-3 as the guest after going 0-4-2 in their last six tilts away from Detroit.