The Presidents’ Trophy isn’t the piece of hardware the Detroit Red Wings are focused on. Still, winning that title for the third straight season would be quite an accomplishment.
Detroit looks to take another step toward the NHL’s best overall record when it hosts the surging Dallas Stars on Friday night.
The Red Wings (47-19-11) moved into a tie with Nashville for the Central Division lead and the top seed in the Western Conference with a 2-1 victory over the Predators on Thursday.
Pavel Datsyuk scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and added an assist for Detroit, which is seeking its sixth straight Central Division title. The Red Wings have a game in hand on the Predators with four of their final five games left against non-playoff teams Columbus and Chicago.
“We’re in the playoffs, and one through eight, I don’t know who we want to play,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “Which team do we match up best against? I can’t figure it out, so I’m not spending any time doing it.”
The victory also moved Detroit into a tie with Buffalo for the league’s best overall record. The Sabres, however, have a game in hand on the Red Wings.
Detroit could become the first team to finish first in the overall standings in three consecutive seasons since Montreal from 1976-78. The Presidents’ Trophy was first awarded in 1985-86.
The Red Wings would like to see their offense improve before the playoffs as they’ve scored only eight goals in their last six games and have gone 2-2-2.
Some of those struggles can be attributed to the absence of left wing Henrik Zetterberg, who leads the team with 33 goals and is second with 68 points. Zetterberg - sidelined since Feb. 24 with a back injury - has started practicing but isn’t expected to play this game. He may return Sunday at Columbus.
Datsyuk is one Red Wing that isn’t struggling offensively. He has seven goals and 14 assists in his last 15 games.
With Chris Osgood making 25 saves Thursday, Dominik Hasek is expected to be back in net for this game. The six-time Vezina Trophy winner has won four straight starts against Dallas (46-24-6), allowing six goals with one shutout.
Todd Bertuzzi had two assists Thursday, his first points in four games with the Red Wings.
With 98 points, Dallas is six behind Pacific Division-leading Anaheim and is tied with San Jose and Minnesota for fifth in the West.
The Stars will be tested in their next two games - at Detroit and Nashville - but then play three of their final four contests against teams out of the playoff race. The exception is a home game against the Ducks on April 6.
“It should be an exciting finish to the season,” Dallas’ Mike Modano said on the team’s official Web site. “We know the opportunity is there. It’s just a matter of playing good hockey and seeing how the points fall. We have one game left with (Anaheim) and it could make it very interesting coming down the stretch.”
Mike Ribeiro scored twice and Marty Turco stopped 21 shots for his 30th career shutout in Dallas’ 6-0 victory Tuesday over Phoenix. Turco is 1-8-0 with five ties and a 2.91 goals-against average in 15 career starts against Detroit.
Detroit has won all three meetings against Dallas this season and is 8-1-1 with five ties in the series since the start of the 2002-03 season.