The Devils know that they will begin the postseason on the road. That could also be the case for the Red Wings and it is certainly a scenario they would like to avoid.
Detroit looks to strengthen its hold on the Western Conference's fourth seed this evening in its only matchup this regular season with New Jersey.
The Red Wings logged a 3-2 shootout win over the Central Division-champion Blues last night, giving Detroit 101 points on the season for its 12th straight 100-point season. That has the Red Wings one ahead of the Predators for the fourth spot -- and home-ice advantage in the first round -- with two games to play for both teams. Nashville is hosting Dallas this evening.
Detroit would certainly love to start the playoffs at home. Last night's win improved it to just 17-21-3 on the road compared to 31-6-2 as the host. The Red Wings end their regular season against the Blackhawks at home on Saturday.
Last night's meeting with the Blues went scoreless for the first two periods before St. Louis found the back of the net twice. However, Johan Franzen scored a pair of goals for the Red Wings in a 2:15 span, including the game- tying goal with 3:50 left in regulation, and goaltender Jimmy Howard made 27 saves through overtime before stopping all three skaters he faced in the shootout.
That set up Todd Bertuzzi's winner in the tiebreaker's third round, giving the Red Wings a victory in two straight and four of their past six.
"It was almost a playoff atmosphere out there," said Howard. "For us to get down by two late in the third and to be able to tie it up then win in the shootout is a huge win for us."
A victory tonight would give Detroit its longest winning streak since a six- gamer from Feb. 8-19 and the Red Wings are eligible to have defenseman Kyle Quincey back from his one-game suspension served last night. The blueliner picked up the ban for an illegal hit versus the Panthers on Sunday.
The Devils, meanwhile, can finish no lower than their current seeding of sixth in the Eastern Conference, but can still grab the fifth spot with a little help. They currently trail the Flyers by three points for that position with two to play, and Philadelphia is hosting Buffalo this evening.
New Jersey carries a four-game win streak into tonight's matchup following a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Tuesday. Patrik Elias had a goal and an assist, while Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal to give both skaters six points in their last three games.
Johan Hedberg spelled starter Martin Brodeur for a night and made 19 saves for a Devils team that is 10-4-1 in their past 15 and don't seem too concerned with seeding.
"We know we are going to be there," Kovalchuk said about the playoffs. "So we just have to prepare ourselves as best as we can and fight for what we really want to get."
Playing in a fifth straight game after missing 37 in a row because of soreness in his Achilles, Travis Zajac logged his second goal of the season and first since Dec. 20. Zajac needed surgery this past offseason on his Achilles and has been limited to only 13 games this season.
Forward David Clarkson sat out the victory with a lower-body injury that has him day-to-day, while Jacob Josefson was lost for 4-to-6 weeks because of a fractured left wrist suffered versus the Islanders.
The Devils, who host the Senators to end the regular season on Saturday, lost both of their games last year versus the Red Wings, who have won six of the last seven encounters overall.
Detroit's 3-1 home win over New Jersey a season ago was their ninth straight over the Devils in Motown. New Jersey hasn't picked up a victory in Detroit since Nov. 6, 1996