With no room for error in their chase for a playoff spot, the Detroit Red Wings try to win two straight games for the first time this month as they visit the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.
The Red Wings have not logged a winning streak since taking three in a row from March 22-25. The ended that month on a two-game slide and have gone 3-2-2 in seven games in April.
After dropping the last two contests of a three-game slide in a shootout, Detroit found the win column on Sunday by besting the Nashville Predators 3-0. Jimmy Howard stopped all 22 shots faced for his third shutout of the season and 14th of his career.
Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen scored, while Zetterberg also assisted on Justin Abdelkader's empty-net tally as Detroit moved to 1-0-1 on a four-game road trip. Pavel Datsyuk finished with two assists.
The Red Wings, who have made the playoffs in 21 straight seasons, are tied for the eight spot in the Western Conference with the Columbus Blue Jackets. However, Detroit has a game in hand and its 47 points are three back of the seventh-place St. Louis Blues and four behind the Minnesota Wild.
"This morning we were out of the playoffs, I think we're in it right now and I think (Minnesota's) right there with us and St. Louis," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said on Sunday. "There's lots of us in that mud puddle trying to find a way to swim."
The Flames have long been sunk in the playoff race as they sit 14th in the West with 36 points. They had won two straight and three of four prior to Monday's 4-3 setback to the Wild.
Ben Hanowski, one of the two college players that Calgary got from the Pittsburgh Penguins along with a first-round pick for former captain Jarome Iginla on March 27, scored in his NHL debut after signing with the Flames on Friday. Jiri Hudler and Sven Baertschi also had goals.
"We have plenty of young players and what's the sense of calling them up if we're going to keep them on the bench and not put them in key situations," said Calgary head coach Bob Hartley. "We want to invest in our young players."
Joey MacDonald gave up all four goals on 27 shots in the loss, which came in the opener of a three-game homestand. Calgary ends the stand on Friday versus Anaheim before playing four in a row on the road to close the season.
The Flames have outscored the Red Wings 9-3 in taking the first two meetings this season. That includes a 5-2 victory at home on March 13 that was fueled by a three-goal third period.
Howard is likely to start for Detroit one day after officially signing a six- year contract extension with the club. The deal is worth a reported $31.8 million.
"Jimmy is one of our most valuable players who is entering the prime of his career. He gives a chance to win every night," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
The Flames, meanwhile, could have forward Matt Stajan in the lineup tonight for the first time in five games after he was sidelined with an upper body injury. Stajan was able to practice on Tuesday and has five goals and 23 points in 38 games this season.