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Red Wings-Blue Jackets Preview

AP - Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets were no match for Detroit in the opener of a home-and-home set, as the Red Wings scored their most goals in three months.

That doesn't bode well for the Blue Jackets in Wednesday's rematch in Columbus with Detroit expecting to have its leading goal scorer back on the ice.

After being ravaged by injuries for much of March, the Red Wings (46-25-5) are getting healthy.

Nicklas Lidstrom returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for 11 games Saturday against Carolina, and the seven-time Norris Trophy winner had an assist as Detroit rallied to win 5-4 and snap a six-game losing streak.

The Red Wings plan to have forward Johan Franzen (back spasms), the team leader with 26 goals, and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (left wrist) back Wednesday. Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard (groin), sidelined for seven of the last 10 games, is expected to miss two more contests.

Franzen, who has missed the last five, has three goals and two assists in four games against Columbus (24-45-7) this season.

Detroit didn't seem to miss Franzen or any of its other injured players Monday against the Blue Jackets, jumping out to a 4-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game en route to a 7-2 victory. Ty Conklin stopped 24 shots and Tomas Holmstrom had two goals for the Red Wings in their highest-scoring game since an 8-2 victory over Los Angeles on Dec. 17.

"It's great for us right now," said rookie center Gustav Nyquist, who scored his first career goal. "We had a little rough go there, but I thought we played great against Carolina and (Monday) we came out hard."

Detroit clinched a team-record 21st straight playoff appearance, breaking the previous mark set from 1939-58, but the team knows it still has work to do.

The Red Wings are mired in a six-game road losing streak and haven't lost seven in a row away from Detroit since an 11-game skid Jan. 7-Feb. 25, 1986.

"We have to get better and feel good about our game," coach Mike Babcock said.

The Red Wings are in a tight race with Nashville for fourth place and home-ice advantage in a Western Conference first-round playoff series, and they close the season with five games against teams all in the postseason picture.

The Blue Jackets, though, aren't one of them and are assured of finishing with the worst record in the NHL.

That was obvious at Joe Louis Arena on Monday, as Columbus had players fall and turn the puck over without a Red Wing near them in the opening minutes leading to the early deficit.

"We could've had Patrick Roy in there, Ken Dryden, wouldn't have mattered," interim coach Todd Richards said. "It was too easy for them."

Steve Mason gave up six goals on 28 shots and was pulled in favor of Allen York for the second straight game. The Blue Jackets, who fell behind 7-0 before goals by Mark Letestu and Rick Nash, are 2-7-0 in their last nine games and have allowed at least four goals in five of those contests.

Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and Brad Stuart also scored Monday for the Red Wings, who have outscored Columbus 12-4 in the last two meetings. Detroit is 4-1-0 against the Blue Jackets this season and 13-2-2 in the series since 2009-10.

"We were just outworked, outbattled, outcompeted, outskated," Richards said. "However you want to describe it. They were faster, bigger, stronger. It came down to playing smart and playing hard and we didn't do either.

"We're playing in front of our home crowd (Wednesday), and we got to give a much better performance."

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