Red Wings control playoff destiny
DETROIT — The Red Wings are in a fairly good position, but they’re looking to take care of their own business with four games left in the regular season.
They currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 88 points. The Columbus Blue Jackets are right behind with 87 points.
The Philadelphia Flyers are sixth with 89 points, and the New Jersey Devils are ninth with 84. The Toronto Maple Leafs also have 84 points.
"We have to win our games and can’t expect other teams to lose," Daniel Alfredsson said. "We got to expect that everybody is going to win their games to close the season, so we have to win our games, too, to get in.
"It’s obviously better to be in a position where you control your own destiny, and that’s what we want to do."
Here’s what the schedule looks like: at Buffalo Tuesday, at Pittsburgh Wednesday, at home against Carolina Friday and at St. Louis Sunday.
Although the Sabres are last in the Eastern Conference, the Wings aren’t overlooking any NHL team.
"They’re going to want to win," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They’re playing in front of their home crowd. We’re playing a big game for us.
"We just need to be detail-orientated. We thought we had tons of chances that last time we played and didn’t score, so the game in the end was close."
The Wings are confident but not overconfident as the approach the final week of the regular season.
"It’s nice to know that you control your own destiny, but we’ll take it one game at a time here," Gustav Nyquist said. "And we know that it’s going to take a few more points to get into the playoffs because the teams that are chasing us are going to keep on winning games down the stretch."
HAVING DATSYUK BACK
Pavel Datsyuk has played the last two games after missing the previous 16 because of a knee injury.
Against the Sabres at home April 4, Datsyuk played 17 minutes, 45 seconds. One night later in Montreal, he played 17:41 and scored a power-play goal.
"I don’t know how much I played him the other night, didn’t look at the sheet that way," Babcock said. "I’m just going to play him as much as he’s ready to play, just like we do with every player each and every night."
Datsyuk might still not be 100 percent, but the Wings have already seen the impact he’s had.
"Just a huge presence in the locker room and on the ice," Alfredsson said.
The Wings know that it’s not easy to jump right in after missing so much time.
"I thought he looked good," Justin Abdelkader said. "He’d probably tell you he’s pretty tired. Maybe he didn’t feel the best on back-to-back after taking all that time off, but I thought he looked good.
"His presence on the ice alone makes defenders key on him. Having him in the lineup — on the power play, five-on-five — is crucial for us."
DINNER’S ON RENNEY
Associate coach Tom Renney apparently was the big loser in the coaches’ NCAA tournament pool.
As a result, he’s to take the other coaches out to dinner, but Babcock wasn’t saying who the big winner was.
"Well, it doesn’t really matter as long as you don’t lose," he said. "It’s like going bear hunting. You take a slow guy with you in case the bear is hungry."