Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings game preview
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.
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Steve Yzerman's current team is desperately seeking to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Yzerman's old team is about to miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season.
Regardless, when the Detroit Red Wings, the team Yzerman served as team captain for from 1986-2006, on Friday play host to the Lightning, the team Yzerman currently leads as general manager, Tampa Bay should not expect the Wings to simply roll over and die just because they are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
"It's a different position to be in for sure," Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader said. "Obviously, you want to be in the playoff mix and fighting for playoff seeding.
"At the same time, each and every guy is prideful and this is our job. We want to go out each and every day and do it to the best of our ability. You can't get down and can't hang your head. We're professional hockey players. We do this for a living. We're very lucky for what we do, so there should be no hanging any heads in here."
Not that the Lightning should be considering the notion of taking any team lightly. Prior to Thursday's huge 6-3 win over Boston that left Tampa Bay three points behind the Bruins for the final Eastern Conference Wild Card spot, the Lightning had lost three in a row and surrendered 15 goals in the process, including a 5-3 home-ice setback at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes, at the moment situated 29th overall in the 30-team NHL.
One positive for the Lightning is the play of forward Nikita Kucherov. He fired a hat trick in Thursday's win and has six goals in the past three games.
"Just remember there's still a lot of games left," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Tribune. "We can't lay down. We can't fold."
Lightning coach Jon Cooper sounded less optimistic about their playoff hopes with only nine games remaining on the schedule.
"We're running out of real estate," Cooper told the Tampa Bay Tribune. "That's the issue."
From the perspective of the Red Wings, Tampa Bay's desperate plight is none of their concern.
"Not really," Abdelkader said. "We're really just focused on ourselves here. The opponent doesn't matter as much."
While they may be one of the NHL's bottom feeders, as they wind down their farewell season at Joe Louis Arena the Wings are 3-1 in their last four games. They come home off an impressive 2-1 overtime win over the Canadiens in Montreal and also have recently defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, the only Western Conference team to reach the 100-point plateau so far this season.
The Wings have allowed just four goals in their last three games and have scored 14 times in the past four games. Detroit's power play is clicking at a 30 per cent success rate (six-for-20) over the last six games.
"We just want to go out and play the way we're capable of playing because we can be a really good team and just build on it," Abdelkader said. "I think we've played pretty good the last handful of games. We'll just keep building on that and playing hard and send the Joe out on a good note here."