Sabres-Red Wings Preview
Desperation is starting to set in for the Detroit Red Wings as their playoff hopes will be decided over the final two weeks of the regular season.
A favorable schedule gives them a chance to improve their odds at extending the longest active postseason streak in the four major sports in North America.
The Red Wings will try to bounce back from one of their most embarrassing losses of the season by continuing their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
Detroit (37-27-11) is tied with Philadelphia for the second wild-card spot and three points back of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, giving the Red Wings two avenues to reach the postseason.
With seven games left in the regular season, a 5-7-0 record this month doesn't have the Red Wings inspiring much confidence in extending their streak to 25 straight postseason appearances dating back to 1990.
Detroit's latest effort left much to be desired, resulting in a 7-2 rout by Pittsburgh after surrendering four goals on 10 shots in the second period Saturday.
"Well, there's a lot of talk but I think again, that's enough talk," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We've got to get out there and actually do something about it. Doesn't matter how much you do with talking, you've got to be able to do it out there too.
"We have to be better, pretty simple."
Detroit has that chance with three of its next four games coming against Buffalo (31-34-10), Montreal and Toronto - all eliminated from postseason contention.
The Red Wings are 29-3-2 with one tie over their last 35 meetings with the Sabres, winning the most recent contest 3-0 at Buffalo on Jan. 22.
They've won 16 of the past 18 home matchups, but Petr Mrazek gave up two goals in the third of a 2-1 loss Dec. 14.
Mrazek has a 4.34 goals-against average over his last four games. He was pulled in the second period Saturday after surrendering four goals on 27 shots.
He's 5-1-0 with a 2.55 GAA in seven career meetings with Buffalo, making 19 saves in his shutout Jan. 22.
Dylan Larkin had a goal and assist in that matchup, and his team-high 21 tallies are the most by a Red Wings rookie since Henrik Zetterberg had 22 in 2002-03. Larkin, though, has only scored three times over the last 22 games.
Pavel Datsyuk has seven points during the past six games and 23 in 24 career meetings with Buffalo.
The Sabres have won three of four games and are on the verge of matching their season-high three-game winning streak from Nov. 7-12.
Sam Reinhart and fellow rookie Jack Eichel scored in the third period to rally Buffalo for a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Saturday.
"I really don't look at them as rookies or young players anymore," coach Dan Bylsma said. "They're players that are stepping up for our team and leading our team in a lot of ways."
Eichel's 23 goals are second among rookies and the most by a first-year player for Buffalo since Thomas Vanek's 25 in 2005-06. Eichel, though, has just eight tallies on the road and one in the past 11 contests. He scored twice in a 4-3 loss to Detroit on Jan. 2 but failed to get on the score sheet in the other three matchups this season.
Reinhart, who has 10 points in 10 games, also had a goal against the Red Wings on Jan. 2.
Hudson Fasching scored in his NHL debut Saturday after signing a contract last week.