Red Wings look to win their third straight
With Niklas Kronwall back and Dylan Larkin enjoying a historic rookie season, the Detroit Red Wings are feeling good about extending their run of consecutive playoff berths.
That might not happen, though, unless they can change their recent road fortunes against Tampa Bay.
The Red Wings look to win their third straight and end a five-game slide at Amalie Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. pregame, 7:30 faceoff on FOX Sports Detroit) when the Lightning continue a pursuit of their first division title in 12 years.
Detroit (36-25-11) looked like it might be falling out of the postseason chase after dropping nine of 14 in a stretch that ended with a 4-3 loss at Philadelphia on March 15. The club has since regrouped, winning its last two and moving ahead of the Flyers for the Eastern Conference's final wild-card spot with Saturday's 5-3 victory at Florida.
"We need to continue to build," goaltender Jimmy Howard said. "It's another step in the right direction."
Kronwall provided a lift with two assists after he had missed the previous three games with a sprained right knee. The Red Wings are 11-4-1 in their last 16 games in which the defenseman has played.
"Well, first of all, he's an elite leader," coach Jeff Blashill told the team's official website. "Nik's a big part of our team, has been for a long time."
Pavel Datsyuk led the way Saturday with two goals, while Larkin added a goal and an assist. Larkin has team bests of 21 goals and 43 points, leaving him just shy of becoming the first Detroit rookie to finish with at least 44 since current teammate Henrik Zetterberg in 2002-03.
Larkin had an assist in a 3-1 home win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 13 and scored the late go-ahead goal in a 2-1 home victory over the Lightning on Nov. 3. Though they split four games at Amalie in last year's postseason meeting, Detroit couldn't snap its regular-season skid there in a 3-1 loss Feb. 3.
Another road defeat in this series could prove costly, as the Flyers have games in hand on the Red Wings as they push for the playoffs and attempt to end the Red Wings' drive for a 24th straight postseason appearance.
The Lightning (41-26-5) are looking to move another step closer to overtaking Florida atop the Atlantic Division. They haven't won a division title since celebrating the second of back-to-back crowns in 2003-04 - when they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay, 1-4-1 in six before Saturday's 2-0 win at Arizona, opens a six-game homestand looking to avoid its first three-game slide at Amalie since Oct. 29-Nov. 10. Ben Bishop shined with 32 saves against the Coyotes, moving into first place on the team's all-time shutouts list.
Bishop is expected to get a chance to continue his bid for the Vezina Trophy after going 8-2-1 with a 1.55 goals-against average over his last 11 starts. He's posted a 1.69 GAA in winning eight of 12 career games against Detroit, though he broke a three-game losing streak in the series Feb. 3.
"He's absolutely one of the best goalies in the league, no doubt," defenseman Anton Stralman told the team's official website. "I think that's pretty obvious the last couple of years."
Nikita Kucherov has scored in his last two games overall and also has two goals over his past two against Detroit. Ondrej Palat is having a strong March with six goals in nine games.