NHL

Red Wings-Avalanche matchup not what it used to be

Detroit vs. Colorado used to invoke excitement and anticipation.

The Red Wings and Avalanche had one of the best rivalries in sports 20 years ago, full of animosity, contempt and even respect.

Five times from 1996 to 2002, one of the two won the Stanley Cup, and four times in 12 seasons they met in the playoffs with the winner going on to win it all.

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That is not the state of the teams now. In fact, when the Red Wings play at the Avalanche on Wednesday night, there will be no playoff atmosphere. The only thing on the line is pride, and maybe a better chance at a higher pick in the 2017 draft.

How the mighty have fallen.

Detroit and Colorado are out of the postseason hunt. For the Red Wings, it means not making the playoffs for the first time since 1990. For the Avalanche, it is a steeper slide that started the year after they had a franchise-tying 52 wins three years ago.

Now they are the worst team in the NHL with the fewest goals scored.

The Red Wings (26-30-11) conceded the playoffs by dealing players at the deadline to bolster their future. Colorado was effectively eliminated when it went on a 4-24-2 stretch that started in mid-November.

So the usual excitement surrounding this game has been replaced with a look beyond this season -- at least for Colorado. The Avalanche (19-46-3) recalled 22-year-old defenseman Anton Lindholm from San Antonio of the AHL and he is expected to make his NHL debut against Detroit.

Lindholm, from Skelleftea, Sweden, was Colorado's fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft and had two goals and 10 assists in 59 games for the Rampage after playing with Skelleftea AIK in Sweden.

"Playing against grown men for the last three years in Sweden improved my game a lot, both physically and smartness-wise," Lindholm told HockeyBuzz.com. "Guys are faster, stronger, so I would say it's been a huge part of my development.

"I want to prove to myself that I'm good enough to compete with the best players in the league, and coming in with good confidence next year, knowing that I'm capable of playing at this level of hockey."

Lindholm will likely paired with veteran Francois Beauchemin. Cody Goloubef and Patrick Wiercioch are probable scratches.

According to HockeyBuzz.com, Colorado coach Jared Bednar is shaking up his lines in hopes of getting more offense after a 1-0 loss at Arizona on Monday. It was the 12th time the Avalanche were shut out this season, which ties a franchise record set in 2008-09.

Nathan MacKinnon will center Sven Andrighetto and Mikko Rantanen, and Matt Duchene will center Gabriel Landeskog and Rene Bourque.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, might be welcoming back a forward who was a healthy scratch the previous two games.

Anthony Mantha is expected to play after being benched. Mantha skated on a line with Frans Nielsen and Darren Helms at Tuesday's practice, according to The Detroit News, and coach Jeff Blashill all but confirmed Mantha will play.

"We'll make final lineup decisions tomorrow," Blashill told The Detroit News. "But I look at Anthony to be back."

Mantha is ready to show he gained experience from being benched.

"Just be more prepared to play every game, every shift, and compete at a higher level," Mantha, who is tied for third on the team with 14 goals, told The Detroit News. "That's the message they wanted to send me and that's what I was thinking about when I was sitting out.

"For me, it comes down to playing better in general. I'll keep my head up and I'll come back stronger than I was in the last few games (before being scratched)."

Mantha won't be coming back to a game with something on the line, like so many of the previous Detroit-Colorado matchups. Status isn't on the line -- only pride.