Hurricanes-Red Wings Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings' recent slump has coincided with a rash of injuries, though their captain is nearing a return.

Nicklas Lidstrom is a game-time decision when Detroit looks to avoid its longest losing streak in 21 years Saturday night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

Detroit (44-25-5) sits one point ahead of Nashville and Chicago for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, but it fell to 0-4-2 in its last six games with a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Henrik Zetterberg scored the lone goal for the Red Wings, who aren't panicking despite losing 11 of 14.

"There are good things we can take with us," Zetterberg said. "There are still a few issues we have, and we have to work and get better."

Detroit hasn't lost seven straight games since Jan. 14-30, 1991, but there's a chance Lidstrom could help prevent that after missing the last 11 games with a deep ankle bruise.

The Wings played Wednesday without Lidstrom, Darren Helm (sprained knee), Johan Franzen (back) and goaltenders Jimmy Howard (groin) and Joey MacDonald (back).

Coach Mike Babcock was coy about which players may return Saturday.

"We hear that some of the injured are coming back," Babcock said without elaborating. "Ideally (Saturday) we'll have a better looking team. I'm not certain of that. It's got to come eventually. You've got to get some guys back."

Babcock seemed sure after Friday's practice that Lidstrom would be in the lineup, though the reigning Norris Trophy winner wasn't ready to commit to playing.

"It's hard to say. We'll see what they want to do, see what the coaching staff and trainers want to do, that's why it's hard to say right now whether I'm going to play or not," Lidstrom told the team's official website. "Just have to wait it out tomorrow and see how it feels."

With or without Lidstrom, Detroit will look to extend its 15-game regular-season home unbeaten streak against the Carolina franchise. The Red Wings have 14 wins and a tie since their last regular-season home loss in the series, which came when the Hartford Whalers won 3-0 on Nov. 14, 1989.

The Hurricanes' only win in Detroit came in Game 1 of the 2002 Stanley Cup finals, which Detroit eventually won in five games.

Carolina (30-30-15) had a chance to head into Joe Louis Arena surging, but its four-game winning streak ended with a 5-1 loss to Columbus on Friday.

The Hurricanes' slim playoff chances were all but dashed with the defeat, as they sit seven points behind Buffalo and Washington, which are tied for eighth place in the East.

Coach Kirk Muller said it won't get any easier with Saturday's matchup.

"We just looked like a tired hockey team," Muller said. "We've had a lot of games here in March. Guys have been battling every night. It's a tough loss for us. We've got to bounce back and get ready for a good opponent."

Captain Eric Staal had four goals and two assists in his previous three games, but he didn't have a point and finished with a minus-2 rating Friday.

Staal, though, had three assists as Carolina beat Detroit 3-0 at home in the most recent meeting April 6 to end a three-game overall skid in the series.

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