The Detroit Red Wings' quest for a 22nd straight playoff berth appears to be going down to the wire.
The visiting Red Wings know they probably can't afford to lose to the NHL's worst team Friday night when they try to complete their first season sweep of the Colorado Avalanche in five years.
Detroit (18-14-5) is in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference. Eighth-place St. Louis has 40 points and four other clubs have either 39 or 38.
The Red Wings could have distanced themselves from one of those teams, but fell 4-2 at Phoenix on Thursday. Detroit has dropped three of four since winning five of six.
"It's a huge game for us tomorrow in light of what we did tonight, so we've got to respond," coach Mike Babcock said Thursday.
The lone victory in the Red Wings' last four games was a 3-2 win over Colorado (12-20-4) on Monday, although the lowly Avalanche nearly rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period.
Detroit also beat Colorado 2-1 at home March 5. The Red Wings last swept the Avalanche when they won all four 2007-08 meetings.
Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary scored power-play goals against the Coyotes in the first and third periods, respectively. But it was the second period in which Detroit was outscored 3-0 and outshot 20-5 that proved decisive.
"We didn't win a lot of faceoffs in the second period," Babcock said. "They had the puck a lot."
Henrik Zetterberg returned Thursday for Detroit after missing two games with a groin injury. Detroit remained without center Damien Brunner, right wing Mikael Samuelsson and defenseman Kyle Quincey.
"We see the standings, too. We know what's going on,'' Zetterberg said. "We've got 11 (games) left and have to take as many points as possible."
Quincey, however, could return Friday after missing nine games with a fractured cheekbone. It would mark his first game in Denver since he was traded to Detroit by the Avalanche as part of a three-team deal Feb. 21, 2012.
Colorado coach Joe Sacco started Semyon Varlamov before replacing him with Jean-Sebastien Giguere after the third goal Monday in Detroit, and it's unclear who will start Friday.
Giguere got the nod Tuesday and matched a season high with 35 saves in a 3-1 loss at Nashville.
"Giguere played one heck of a game for us, and that was definitely not the way to repay him, that's for sure,'' said Matt Duchene, who scored for the third time in four games and leads Colorado with 15 goals.
P.A. Parenteau is the other major threat with 14 goals and 36 points - eight over his last seven games.
The Avalanche will play for the first time since dealing Ryan O'Byrne to Toronto on Wednesday. O'Byrne had a goal and three assists in 34 games.
Jimmy Howard has started the last four games for Detroit.
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