Red Wings aim to extend surge in Pittsburgh

( - The Detroit Red Wings hope to continue their stellar second half of the season when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for Wednesday's Eastern Conference showdown at Consol Energy Center.

The Red Wings had a respectable 17-8-9 record through their first 34 games of the season, but Mike Babcock's club has been on fire since then, going 14-4-0 over the last 18 games. The lengthy surge has Detroit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 71 points, two behind Montreal and three in back of first-place Tampa Bay, which has played four more games than the Red Wings.

Detroit enters Wednesday on a three-game winning streak and has posted victories in nine of its past 10 tilts. The Red Wings hope to complete a perfect three-game road trip tonight when they take on the Penguins.

Tonight's clash pits two of the East's best against each other. Pittsburgh has 68 points on the season and is three behind the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Red Wings have won two of the last three meetings with Pittsburgh. They notched a 4-3 overtime victory in Detroit on Oct. 23, but the Penguins have claimed three of the past four meetings in the Steel City.

Detroit's most recent victory came Saturday when it posted a 3-1 decision in Arizona. The Red Wings have outscored the opposition by a combined 10-2 margin during their three-game win streak.

Tomas Tatar tallied a goal and two assists to back Petr Mrazek's solid performance between the pipes against the Coyotes.

Mrazek, who was coming off a 28-save shutout of Colorado on Thursday, made 22 saves, but none bigger than his stop on Martin Erat's penalty shot late in regulation.

Darren Helm had a goal and an assist and Riley Sheahan also scored for the Red Wings.

"I thought we had some really good looks on the power play." Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said "It was a good win for our team."

Although regular No. 1 netminder Jimmy Howard is ready to return from a torn groin and suit up tonight, Mrazek will make his 11th straight start in net for Detroit. Mrazek is 8-1-0 in nine starts since Howard was injured on Jan 10 in Washington.

Howard is expected to start this Saturday when the Red Wings return home to face Winnipeg.

Pittsburgh also last played on Saturday, when it was routed 5-0 in Vancouver after taking the first two tests of a three-game road trip. Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller made 31 saves to blank the Penguins.

Penguins backup netminder Thomas Greiss got the start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts, and allowed all five goals on 27 shots in defeat.

Fleury could back in net tonight and is 5-5-1 with a 2.93 goals against average in 11 career games against the Red Wings.

Pittsburgh is scheduled to play again on Thursday when it visits the Ottawa Senators.