It’s been nine months since the Pittsburgh Penguins came to Detroit and beat the Red Wings to hoist the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise history.
This season, only one of these perennial powers is a lock to return to the playoffs.
The Red Wings look to further solidify their postseason hopes with a third consecutive home victory Monday night when the Penguins return to Joe Louis Arena.
Just making the playoffs, let alone a potential third straight Stanley Cup finals meeting with Pittsburgh (42-24-6), will be on the minds’ of the Detroit players in this contest.
After winning the Stanley Cup in 2008 then losing 2-1 to Pittsburgh at home in Game 7 in June, Detroit (35-23-13) is flirting with missing the playoffs for the first time since 1989-90. With 11 games left, the Red Wings hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Calgary.
“If we play good, we’re going to get into the playoffs, so that’s what we try to do,” coach Mike Babcock told the Red Wings’ official Web site.
Detroit has played well of late, going 8-2-1 since losing four in a row. The Red Wings concluded a 2-0-1 road swing with a 4-3 overtime win at Vancouver on Saturday.
Henrik Zetterberg(notes) scored as the overtime buzzer sounded Saturday and the Red Wings rallied from an early two-goal deficit to remain in playoff position despite playing without injured forwards Dan Cleary (groin) and Patrick Eaves(notes) (head). It’s uncertain if both will be ready for this contest.
“We needed the points. If we don’t get the points, we don’t get in the postseason,” said Zetterberg, who has four goals and eight assists in his last nine games. “We just keep going as long as we need to.”
The Red Wings will need that kind of effort to continue against the Penguins, who hold a two-point lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division and look to maintain second place in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh beat Detroit 2-1 in a shootout at home Jan. 31.
Sidney Crosby(notes) scored in regulation and in the shootout for Pittsburgh in that contest. Canada’s Olympic hero has a career-high 45 goals this season, but only one in his last seven games. Including playoffs, Crosby has one goal in nine career games at Detroit.
After missing two games with a foot injury, Evgeni Malkin(notes) scored in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime home loss to Carolina on Saturday. The Penguins couldn’t hold a late lead and lost for fourth time in six games.
“We’ve got to find a way to finish the game and get two points,” Crosby said. “If we’re doing the right things out there, we’re going to get our shots no matter how teams play against us.”
After making 29 saves in his 18th straight start Saturday in Vancouver, Jimmy Howard(notes) could be back in net for Detroit. The 25-year-old rookie, who stopped 46 shots at Pittsburgh earlier this season, has a 1.75 goals-against average while winning four of the last five games.