The Detroit Red Wings are coming off their best offensive night of the season, hopeful their new top line can continue to dominate.
A repeat performance Sunday in New York would do more than build further confidence - it would vault the Red Wings past the Rangers in the ever-changing Eastern Conference points hierarchy.
While Detroit (29-21-13) can't technically pass New York (34-26-4) at the moment due to this season's revamped divisional structure, a regulation win would give the Red Wings more points and mark a second straight victory over a fellow East playoff contender.
"The points are huge," coach Mike Babcock told the team's official website after Friday's 7-4 home win over New Jersey.
The top line includes recent newcomer David Legwand, who scored his first goal with the team and added two assists. Johan Franzen had two goals and two assists while Gustav Nyquist had a goal and three assists as the trio accounted for 11 of the team's 20 points.
"Obviously two great players, world-class players, and it's an honor to play with them, and we had the puck tonight," Legwand said after his second game since being traded from Nashville on Wednesday. "We were moving it and I think, obviously, when you can move and skate it's going to create some chances and opportunities."
His linemates have backed his words on the scoresheet. Franzen has 12 points in his last six games while Nyquist has eight in five.
"(Franzen has) been good, he didn't get to play very much, that's all," said Babcock, referring to Franzen's concussion issues earlier in the season. "Now that he's playing it's real obvious why he's so important. Leadership-wise he has to be a huge factor for us. When you're one of the best players in the league you have to play like that each and every night."
The Red Wings are 3-1-1 since the Olympic break while the Rangers have gone 2-2-1.
Friday's 4-2 win at Carolina ended a three-game losing streak for New York. Rick Nash and Derek Stepan each had a goal and an assist, Mats Zuccarello added an assist in his return from a broken hand and Martin St. Louis recorded his first point in two games with the Rangers.
They trailed twice but converted a 5-on-3 power play with 2:46 to play to take a 3-2 lead.
"This is how it is played in the playoffs," said St. Louis, who assisted on Stepan's winner. "We want to play like it is the playoffs so we don't have to turn the switch on when it is the playoffs."
Stepan has seven points on a five-game streak while Zuccarello has nine on a fractured seven-gamer.
At the other end, Henrik Lundqvist made 22 saves to snap a three-game skid in which he'd allowed 13 goals. Against the Red Wings, he'll start his fifth straight game and try for his 300th career victory. His most recent shutout came in these teams' last matchup, stopping 38 shots in a 1-0 win Jan. 16.
Jimmy Howard made a season-high 47 saves that day and will face Lundqvist again Sunday. Howard is 2-1-1 with a 1.73 GAA in his career against New York.
The Rangers have won three straight against the Red Wings, including both this season. Derick Brassard assisted on Zuccarello's third-period goal in the last meeting to extend his point streak against Detroit to eight games.
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