Blue Jackets-Red Wings Preview

The Associated Press

Mired in their longest losing streak of the season, the Detroit Red Wings are forced to deal with another injury to a key player.

Even short-handed, Detroit should have a good chance to continue its home dominance of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With the status of goaltender Jimmy Howard uncertain, the Red Wings look to avoid a fifth straight defeat and keep the league-worst Blue Jackets winless on their road trip Thursday night.

Howard left Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss at Nashville with blurred vision after allowing two goals on seven shots in 11:22 of ice time. He is 6-5-2 with a 3.08 goals-against average and has started all but two of Detroit's games.

"He got hit in practice I guess, and I didn't know about that," coach Mike Babcock told the Red Wings' official website. "He wasn't seeing good, or something like that. I was watching the game and someone told me."

With Howard's status in question, offseason acquisition Jonas Gustavsson could make his first start for the Red Wings (7-6-3) and first career appearance in Detroit. Gustavsson had missed a month with a groin injury before playing his second game of the season Tuesday, yielding two goals on 18 shots.

Stuck in an 0-2-2 slump since winning three in a row, Detroit is already trying to get by with five players on injured reserve, including forwards Todd Bertuzzi (back) and Johan Franzen (hip) as well as defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (collarbone).

It's also unclear if veteran Mikael Samuelsson, who has played only three games, will miss a second straight contest after he was hit in the hand by a puck during Tuesday's morning skate. Samuelsson missed 12 games with a groin injury before returning for Sunday's 3-2 loss at Minnesota.

"I don't know if it's serious or not serious," Babcock said. "We'd like to have him play. But there's nothing you can do about that. Injuries are part of the game, you have to find a way to win games."

Though the Red Wings have dropped their last two home games, they have won three straight over Columbus at Joe Louis Arena and are 29-5-2 at home during the regular season and playoffs against the Blue Jackets.

Pavel Datsyuk, who has six points in his last four games versus Columbus, has a chance to match a career high with a goal in his sixth straight contest.

The Blue Jackets (4-10-2) have earned three points in two home games against Detroit this season, but they've dropped six consecutive road games since a season-opening 3-2 shootout win at Nashville.

They're 1 for 23 on the power play during that road skid and scoreless with the man advantage halfway through the current six-game trip.

Columbus has allowed four power-play goals in those three defeats, including two in Monday's 3-2 loss at Anaheim. Vinny Prospal scored on one of his team's 12 first-period shots, but the Blue Jackets mustered just 15 over the final 40 minutes.

"We have to find ways to win games," coach Todd Richards told Columbus' official website. "Wherever it is, whether it's scoring more goals or keeping pucks out of our net, we have to make plays."

Prospal has done his part, posting three goals and two assists in the last six games. He has no goals in his last seven trips to Detroit.

Finnish-born Jarmo Kekalainen, who became the first European general manager in the NHL when Columbus hired him to replace Scott Howson last week, is expected to meet his team for the first time in Detroit.

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