DETROIT — Playing the role of the spoiler is new to the Detroit Red Wings, so perhaps that explains why they aren’t very good at it.
The Wings will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring for the first time since 1989-90, but they will play their fifth straight game against a team still battling for an Eastern Conference playoff spot when they face the Ottawa Senators on Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
So far, Detroit is 1-3-0 in those games and have lost three straight — once each to the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
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“Every game we’ve been playing, there are teams on the other side that are fighting for points,” Detroit center Dylan Larkin said. “There is a lot of pride in this room and as an athlete, especially in a building like the Joe where there are three games left, we want to give our home fans something to cheer about.”
There hasn’t been much to cheer about this season. In their farewell season at the Joe Louis Arena prior to moving into new Little Caesars Arena next season, the Wings have a 15-17-8 home record, flirting with their first losing season on home ice since going 10-26-4 in 1985-86.
Detroit (31-35-12) is 3-4-1 in its past eight at home, and coach Jeff Blashill admires the resolve of his team through trying circumstances.
“I think the character of this team has continued to shine, to be dead honest with you,” Blashill said. “This isn’t easy. I think your character’s tested when times are tough and I think this character’s continued to shine.
“We’ve got an unreal group of people in here. These are, again, not easy times and our guys are coming through.”
The Senators, on the other hand, haven’t been coming through. A 4-2 loss at Winnipeg on Saturday dropped Ottawa to 0-3-1 in its past four games and 2-5-3 in the last 10. Challenging Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division as recently as two weeks ago, the Senators (41-27-9) now cling to the final Eastern Conference wild-card playoff spot, three points clear of the Lightning with one game in hand.
“Overall, we’re still in a pretty good spot,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen. “We were going to hit a bump at some point in time in the year and unfortunately this bump has come when we’ve seen injuries — we’ve lost our top three defensemen.”
Dorion confirmed that captain Erik Karlsson would miss his third straight in Detroit due to a foot injury. Marc Methot will miss his fifth game in a row with a lacerated finger after being slashed by Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Cody Ceci suffered an apparent leg injury in the loss to the Jets.
Ben Harpur was recalled from AHL Binghamton to help fill the void.
“Ben will play (Monday),” Dorion told the Ottawa Citizen. “Cody will be out for a while.”
The Senators are 0-2 against the Wings this season, including a 5-1 setback Oct. 17 in Detroit’s home opener. The two teams will close out their season series Tuesday in Ottawa.