While some players may not like to admit it, Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard isn’t shy about checking the standings and out-of-town scoreboard as the Red Wings fight to extend their 21-season playoff streak.
He may not like what he sees after Wednesday night’s contest if visiting Detroit can’t get past a Calgary Flames team that has won both meetings this season.
“I would be lying if I told you I didn’t,” Howard said. “Of course we’re going to watch and be looking at the standings and want to know what we have in front of us.”
Detroit (20-15-7) hasn’t missed the postseason since 1989-90, but it’s tied with Columbus for the final Western Conference playoff spot with Dallas two points behind. The Red Wings and Stars each have a game in hand on the Blue Jackets.
“You should know it’s a fairly urgent situation for us, but I think it’s been like that all year,” coach Mike Babcock told the team’s official website. “I heard lots of times we’ve been inconsistent, but that’s not true. We’ve been the most consistent Red Wings’ team I ever coached. We’ve been in the grinder since the start.”
Howard made 22 saves for his third shutout and Henrik Zetterberg had a goal and an assist as the Red Wings defeated Nashville 3-0 on Sunday to end an 0-1-2 skid.
“There’s no panic, but guys definitely know there’s a sense of urgency around here,” said Howard, who agreed to a $31.8 million, six-year contract Tuesday. “We control our own destiny. It’s on us to go out there and get the job done. We have to go out there and play with the same sense of urgency when we get out to Calgary.”
Though the Flames are all but assured of missing the playoffs for a fourth straight season, they’re not laying down. They’ve outscored Detroit 9-3 in winning both meetings this season.
Calgary (16-22-4), despite dressing mostly young prospects due to trades and injuries, had won three of four prior to a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Monday that began a three-game homestand.
“The number one thing obviously is the work ethic and getting them to know the speed of the game,” veteran defenseman Mark Giordano said. “For the most part, they’ve all been great and it’s up to us older guys, we can’t make some of the mistakes we’re making.”
Ben Hanowski acquired from Pittsburgh in the Jarome Iginla deal, scored in his NHL debut Monday. He was signed by the Flames on Friday after St. Cloud State got knocked out of the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal a day earlier.
“It was a special moment and I’ll always remember it,” Hanowski said.
Curtis Glencross had an assist after missing Saturday’s win over Edmonton with the flu. Glencross has scored in each meeting with Detroit and has six goals and four assists in his last six games versus the Red Wings.
Though Miikka Kiprusoff has a 4.12 goals-against average while losing his last six starts, he’s been solid against Detroit.
Kiprusoff made 19 saves through two periods before suffering a sprained MCL that would keep him out more than a month in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Feb. 5. He then stopped 36 shots in a 5-2 victory over the Wings on March 13.
Howard has a 3.13 GAA in his last six starts versus the Flames, who have won four of the last six overall meetings. Detroit had taken five of six matchups in Calgary prior to the defeat last month.