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Detroit Red Wings’ Top 5 Questions Down the Stretch

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Detroit Red Wings’ Top 5 Questions Down the Stretch
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Todd Bertuzzi has played just seven games this year, but can make a difference if he can stay health …

COMMENTARY | The regular season is winding down, and the Detroit Red Wings' playoff hopes could come down to the final game, unlike in years past.

Here are the top five questions for the Red Wings as they attempt to make the playoffs for 22 straight years:

Health of Todd Bertuzzi/Darren Helm

You could make the argument Mikael Samuelsson could be included as the three of them have missed the most amount of time due to injury, but I don't believe Samuelsson can make this team any better.

But I still believe Todd Bertuzzi can make a difference if he returns this season. It appears Darren Helm may be done for the year as coach Mike Babcock said it is unrealistic to think he will return this season.

Bertuzzi has played just seven games this year with three points. It isn't the most impressive stat line ever, but I still believe if Bertuzzi can stay healthy, he could make an impact on this team.

He is a big body, and he has a great set of hands despite turning 38 this year.

Danny DeKeyser

Danny DeKeyser looked phenomenal in his debut against the Colorado Avalanche on April 5, and looked just as impressive in his second game against the St. Louis Blues on April 7 despite being on the ice for the lone goal.

Will he continue to play at a high level for the remainder of the season, or will his inexperience at the NHL level start to kick in?

In two games for the Red Wings, he is making a case for having a full-time roster spot. The key for the Red Wings during the final nine games is going to be to clamp down on defense and secure wins.

The offense -- which I will get in to next -- hasn't been there for Detroit as of late so, until that gets fixed, it's that much more important that DeKeyser and the rest of the defense continue to be solid.

Offense

The Red Wings haven't scored four or more goals in a game since March 22, and they have been shut out twice since then.

They currently sit 21st in the league in goals scored per game at 2.5.

I see too many players trying to make the perfect pass and get the highlight-reel goal when they should just be throwing the puck at the net and looking for rebounds.

Johan Franzen

Johan Franzen has 22 points in 32 games for the Red Wings, but it's obvious to see there are times when he takes plays off or just doesn't seem to care. Franzen has that ability to ramp up his play come playoff time but if he doesn't start producing more consistently right now, there may be no playoffs at all.

He did have a three-game point streak snapped on Sunday, April 7, but he currently is on a six-game goalless drought.

Young guns

The Red Wings have called up a plethora of players from the AHL to fill in for injuries or slumps.

Guys like Brian Lahoff, Gustav Nyquist. Jakub Kindl and Tomas Tatar -- despite not being on the Red Wings right now -- have stepped up to the plate and proven themselves.

Can they hold on to that final playoff spot, or will the lack of experience cause them to stumble down the stretch?

Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can follow Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.

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