Having already secured a postseason berth, the Detroit Red Wings look to distance themselves from one of the teams chasing them in the race for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs when they visit the San Jose Sharks.
Detroit became the first team in the West to clinch a playoff spot when it skated to a 1-1 tie with the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. The Red Wings now have first place in the conference on their minds as they finish up the regular season.
With seven games remaining, Detroit holds a six-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and seven-point advantage over San Jose for first place in the West.
The Red Wings are two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, which is awarded to the team that earns the most points in the NHL.
Detroit is coming off its worst defensive performance of the season. The Red Wings gave up a season high in goals in falling 8-6 to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Sunday.
“It just shouldn’t happen at this time of year,” Red Wings forward Brett Hull said. “It’s unacceptable, I know that.”
Detroit coach Dave Lewis said the loss was tough, but he liked that his club scored six goals and had a season-high 57 shots.
“It was a like a high-speed exhibition game,” Lewis said. “It was wide open, a lot of chances. You’re going to have games like these once a year or two, and tonight was our turn. You just get over it and put it behind you.”
While San Jose still has a chance to finish first in the West, its main focus is holding off the surging Dallas Stars in the Pacific Division.
The Sharks had their five-game unbeaten streak snapped with a 5-2 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed five goals on 27 shots and has given up 31 goals in his last 10 games. The Sharks goalie is playing more than normal since primary backup Vesa Toskala was injured March 13 against Los Angeles.
“We just have to find a way to get Nabokov some rest,” San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. “Hopefully Toskala will be back shortly.”