Red Wings-Blue Jackets Preview
The Detroit Red Wings have yet to find out who their first-round opponent will be, but they are already looking to get into playoff mode.
The Red Wings begin a two-game trip Friday night when they try for a third victory this month over the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets.
Detroit (42-24-14) is headed to the postseason for the 19th straight season. The Red Wings are 14-3-2 since the Olympic break, but their poor start means they will open the playoffs on the road for the first time since 1991.
That has Detroit thinking about the postseason already as it battles for position in the tightly bunched Western Conference standings. The Red Wings had to rally from a third-period deficit in a 4-3 home win over Columbus (32-35-14) on Wednesday, the opener of a home-and-home set.
"We just need to build off this," said goalie Jimmy Howard, who has never played in the playoffs. "Friday night, I think we need to stick to our game plan a little bit better, start playoff hockey and that's getting the pucks in deep and just work them, throwing them to the net and getting dirty goals."
Tomas Holmstrom scored twice and Dan Cleary added a goal in a 1:16 span of the third period to fuel Detroit's comeback. Holmstrom has four goals and seven assists in his last eight games, and five points in five games against the Blue Jackets this season.
"They turned it on in the third period," Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore said. "Not a big surprise. It's what they do."
Detroit outshot Columbus 15-6 in the third. All three home wins by the Red Wings in the season series have come by one goal.
"They did that (relax) for the first 40 minutes," coach Mike Babcock said of his players. "But they've got enough pride and leadership to get the win."
Columbus leading scorer Rick Nash missed his second straight game because of a sore neck and back, and his status is uncertain for Friday.
Mike Blunden had a goal and an assist and R.J. Umberger and Sammy Pahlsson also scored. Steve Mason fell to 1-3-0 with a 3.95 goals-against average against the Red Wings this season after making 31 saves.
"No one in this locker room is happy about our season," Blunden said. "We want to build on what we can for next season."
The Central Division rivals played vastly different games in two meetings in Columbus in 2009-10. Detroit had seven players score in a 9-1 win Nov. 11 while Mason made 34 saves in a 1-0 overtime victory Dec. 28.