Only twice in the past 11 seasons have the Red Wings failed to win the Central Division. Hoping to avoid an eighth straight loss on the road, Detroit will try to secure a winning mark this season against the club that did capture the Central crown this season as it visits the St. Louis Blues.
Though just one point shy of their 12th straight 100-point season, the Red Wings come into play on Wednesday fifth overall in the Western Conference. They are a point back of Nashville and only one up on Chicago with three games to play. All three clubs have already clinched playoff berths, and the Predators and Blackhawks are both idle tonight with two games remaining on their regular-season schedules.
The Red Wings snapped a two-game slide with Sunday's 2-1 shootout victory over the Panthers. Jiri Hudler scored for the fourth time in his past five games before notching the deciding shootout tally. Pavel Datsyuk also scored in the bonus session, while Jimmy Howard made 27 saves through overtime.
"We knew it was going to be a tight-checking game, and there wasn't going to be a whole lot of room to operate out there," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "They did a good job through the neutral zone and I thought they were tenacious."
Detroit moved to 8-2 in shootouts this year and will now try to win on the road for the first time since Feb. 28. The Red Wings are 0-5-2 as the guest since and 16-21-3 overall this season compared to 31-6-2 at home. Tonight is Detroit's final road game of the regular season before home tests against New Jersey and Chicago.
The Red Wings will have to try and snap their road skid without defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was suspended for a game by the league for his illegal hit on Florida's Tomas Kopecky on Sunday.
Detroit lost its first two games of the season versus the Blues -- both in St. Louis -- but has countered with three victories in a row over the Central Division champions at home. The Red Wings outscored the Blues 9-3 over that time and have won eight of the past 12 encounters overall despite losing four of their past six in St. Louis.
Datsyuk is leading Detroit with five points versus the Blues this season off two goals and three assists, while Johan Franzen has scored three times against them.
The Blues play the second of a three-game homestand this evening, ending the residency on Friday versus the Coyotes before concluding the regular season at Dallas on Saturday. St. Louis has already won a club-record 30 games at home this season, while its 64 points as the host off a 30-5-4 record this campaign ties a team mark set in 2000-01.
Like Detroit, St. Louis has also struggled on the road, going 18-16-6. The Blues, though, turned in a subpar outing on Saturday at home versus the Blue Jackets, falling 5-2 to the NHL's last-place club.
The Blues still clinched their first division title since 1999-2000 due to Nashville's regulation loss to Chicago on the same night.
David Perron scored in his third straight game, while David Backes also scored. Jaroslav Halak allowed four goals on 32 shots for St. Louis, which has lost two straight and six of nine.
"It's by no means our end game," Backes said about winning the division. "We need to get this thing in the right direction and get 20 guys that are willing to pay the price for the team and then move forward."
Jason Arnott has four assists versus the Red Wings this season, while Alex Steen is pacing the Blues with three goals in the season series.