|DET||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
|CBJ||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
The Detroit Red Wings have been the NHL's best team over the past decade, and with a few more victories, will lock up the league's best record heading into the postseason.
With the frequency they've been seeing the Columbus Blue Jackets lately, they might feel like the playoffs have started early.
The Red Wings look to move two points closer to clinching home-ice advantage on Saturday when they travel to Nationwide Arena to face the Blue Jackets for the third time this week.
Detroit (49-20-6) has won seven of its nine games in March as it's continued its nearly season-long run as the league's best team, and the Red Wings are looking to win their third Presidents' Trophy in four seasons.
"It's why I enjoy being part of the Red Wings," center Kris Draper said. "When you come to camp, you have an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup."
But the Red Wings haven't been having as much success as usual against the Central Division rival Blue Jackets (33-30-11). They had lost only seven of their first 37 games since Columbus entered the league in 2000-01, but had dropped three straight in the series this season, including a 4-3 loss on Sunday.
The struggles continued through two periods on Wednesday, as the Blue Jackets held a 1-0 lead in Detroit. But Henrik Zetterberg had a natural hat trick in the third, giving the Red Wings the 3-1 win.
Those goals - his 37th, 38th and 39th - were the first for Zetterberg since Feb. 29, a rare seven-game drought for one of the NHL's leading goal scorers.
"He hadn't been scoring at the same rate as he normally does here lately," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "So it was good to see him get that one for us, and then get a couple more to solidify the win."
Zetterberg assisted on one of Pavel Datsyuk's two goals on Thursday, helping the Red Wings beat Nashville 6-3.
Datsyuk has been on a tear over Detroit's past eight games, piling up seven goals and four assists. He has 14 goals and 23 assists in 30 career games against the Blue Jackets.
Chris Osgood will get the start on Saturday as part of the Red Wings' regular goaltender rotation. He's 2-1-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average against Columbus this season.
Osgood is 4-2-1 with a 1.56 GAA over his last seven starts.
The Blue Jackets have never made a playoff appearance since they joined the league, and the odds are stacked against them to break that streak with eight games to play.
Columbus trails eighth-place Colorado by seven points, and although it has a game in hand on the Avalanche, there are four other teams the Blue Jackets must jump in the season's final two weeks.
They had won three of four prior to Wednesday's loss at Detroit, where Manny Malhotra scored Columbus' only goal. Malhotra only has 11 goals this season, but four have come in his last four games against the Red Wings.
Rick Nash is the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with 37 goals and 65 points, and he's been outstanding against Detroit this season, tallying three goals and eight assists.
Columbus is 18-7-5 when Nash scores a goal and 13-5-5 when Nikolai Zherdev - who has 25 goals - scores. But no one aside from those two has more than 14 goals this season.
"Everyone knows what Z and Rick can do," said center Dan Fritsche. "It's nice to see, but it's a matter of getting the puck in the net and having other guys contribute, too."
|Apr 03 '08||CBJ 2 at DET 3||H. Zetterberg|
|Mar 22 '08||DET 4 at CBJ 1||H. Zetterberg|
|Mar 19 '08||CBJ 1 at DET 3||H. Zetterberg|
|Mar 16 '08||DET 3 at CBJ 4||N. Zherdev|
|Feb 15 '08||CBJ 5 at DET 1||F. Modin|
|Nov 24 '07||DET 2 at CBJ 3 - SO||R. Nash|
|Nov 18 '07||DET 5 at CBJ 4 - SO||J. Franzen|
|Nov 09 '07||CBJ 1 at DET 4||T. Holmstrom|