Red Wings begin crucial stretch Tuesday night

It's imperative for the Red Wings to build on last week's solid effort.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If the Detroit Red Wings are going to make the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season, they must take at least a point in each of their next four games.

Their opponents in those games — Columbus, Montreal, Toronto and Tampa Bay — are all competing with the Wings for a playoff spot, so a four-game sweep — preferably all in regulation — would be ideal.

At the very least, it’s imperative for the Wings to build on last week’s solid effort. With only eleven games remaining on their schedule, they find themselves clinging onto the seventh spot in the topsy-turvy Eastern Conference standings.

After Sunday’s game against the Lightning, the Wings play only one team — Montreal on April 5 — that’s in direct competition with them for a playoff berth.

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Also remaining on their schedule are three divisional leaders — Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis — a mediocre Carolina team and two games against woeful Buffalo.

Trailing by seven points heading into Tuesday’s game at Columbus, it will be difficult for the Wings to catch Tampa Bay or Montreal for one of the top three spots in the Atlantic Division. That means a wild-card berth is their most likely entry into the playoffs.

It also means the Wings need to be concerned with how they win their games. In tie-breaking scenarios — where they trail almost every other contender — regulation and overtime victories mean more than shootout wins. It also helps the Wings’ cause even more to win in regulation because they’re not giving their opponents any points.

They’re running out of games, but despite all their injuries, they control their own fate because of this immediate schedule.

If this inexperienced Wings team finds another gear and gets it done this week, they’ll be playoff bound. If not, they’ll be playing out the string in April.