With the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons hanging over them, the Detroit Red Wings will try to boost their postseason chances when they visit the first-place Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
Since last missing the playoffs in the spring of 1990, the Red Wings have made 21 straight postseason appearances. It's the longest such streak currently going in any of the four major professional sports leagues in North America.
Detroit, however, has lost four of its last five games (1-2-2) and finds itself two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Columbus currently occupies the eighth seed, but Detroit holds two games in hand over the Blue Jackets, who are idle on Saturday.
Dallas is currently tied with the Red Wings in the ninth spot, but the Stars are also on idle on Saturday. Detroit has one game in hand over Dallas.
The Red Wings failed to earn a point in their most recent game, as they dropped a 3-2 decision Wednesday night in Calgary. The contest was tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes, but Steve Begin scored twice in the third period to stake the Flames to a 3-1 lead. Johan Franzen cut the deficit to one goal for Detroit with 2:42 left in regulation, but the Red Wings couldn't get the equalizer.
Gustav Nyquist also scored for the Red Wings and Jimmy Howard allowed three goals on just 17 shots in defeat.
"This is an urgent moment for us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "You have to win your way in, you can't watch your way in. We're not at the level that we've been in the past, for sure, but we've still competed hard. I thought we competed hard tonight (but) we didn't start on time and we made a couple of mistakes."
Detroit is playing its penultimate road game of the regular season on Saturday and will open a three-game homestand with Monday's tilt against Phoenix. The Red Wings, who are 10-7-4 at home this season and 10-9-3 on the road, will then close the season next Saturday in Dallas.
The Red Wings have fared well against Vancouver this season, winning both meetings by a combined score of 13-5. The most recent encounter was on March 16 in Vancouver and the Red Wings recorded a 5-2 decision behind a two-goal performances from both Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.
Detroit has won four of six in this series overall and two straight in Vancouver.
While Detroit's quest for a playoff spot could go down to the wire, the Canucks can officially clinch a postseason berth with a win in Saturday's game. Vancouver, the third-seeded team in the West, is also closing in on its fifth straight Northwest Division title, as it sits four points ahead of second-place Minnesota with four games to play for both teams. The Wild are idle on Saturday before hosting Calgary on Sunday.
Despite its firm playoff standing, Vancouver has lost two straight and three of its last four games. The Canucks were dealt a humbling 5-1 loss in Dallas on Thursday to complete a five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record.
Jamie Benn and Cody Eakin both tallied one goal and one assist to lead the Stars to the rout. The game was tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes before Dallas scored four unanswered goals in the third period.
Derek Roy tallied the lone goal for the Canucks, who could have clinched a playoff berth with a win. Corey Schneider allowed five goals on 30 shots.
"I think we need, after tonight, to regroup tomorrow and focus on Detroit," said Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault.
Vancouver has played the last two games without defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who is questionable for Saturday's test with a lower body injury.
The Canucks are 13-5-3 as the host this season and are kicking off a three- game homestand tonight. Vancouver will complete its regular season next Saturday in Edmonton.