09 02 50 20
With a late-season surge, the Detroit Red Wings are moving closer to a few more accolades.
The Red Wings try to expand their lead in the league standings when they conclude a home-and-home series with the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in Detroit.
The Red Wings beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 in Columbus on Sunday. Dominik Hasek had a shutout going until the final minute of play, when Columbus' Rick Nash scored to break the drought.
With the victory, Detroit (48-19-12) not only expanded its lead in the Western Conference, but also in the league. The Red Wings have 108 points, one more than Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo. Detroit is trying to become the first team since Montreal in 1976-78 to win the President's Trophy in three straight seasons.
"We think we have a good team and a good chance," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
The Red Wings lead Anaheim by two points in the West and Nashville by three points in the Central Division. If the Predators lose in regulation to Chicago on Tuesday and Detroit beats Columbus again, the Red Wings will clinch their sixth straight division title.
"A few more games and it's the playoffs around the corner. I think everybody is getting excited," said Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, who scored twice Sunday and needs one goal to match his career-high of 29 set last season.
Detroit has won three of its past four games and earned points in six straight contests to overtake the slumping Predators, who have lost six of nine - including a home-and-home sweep by the Red Wings.
Detroit has also earned points in five straight home games, but is just 2-0-3 in that span. The Red Wings have failed to earn points only four times in 39 games at Joe Louis Arena this season.
The Red Wings finish the season with a home-and-home set against the Blackhawks, beginning Thursday in Chicago.
Columbus (32-40-7) is just trying to play the role of spoiler as the season draws to a close, though the Blue Jackets have lost three straight following a four-game winning streak.
The Blue Jackets went 0-for-6 on the power play against the Red Wings on Sunday and also allowed a short-handed goal.
"It was a difference in special teams," Nash said. "They had a better power play and penalty kill than ours."
After Tuesday, Columbus finishes with home games against the Ducks and Dallas, two teams battling for the Pacific Division title.
To disrupt the playoff seedings, the Blue Jackets will have to avoid falling behind by large deficits. They trailed 3-0 to Chicago on Friday before scoring the last goal and were down by four goals against Detroit on Sunday.
"They are really deep up front and that wears on you," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said of the Red Wings.
Detroit is 4-2-1 against Columbus this season. The Red Wings have lost only eight times in 36 all-time meetings with the Blue Jackets.