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The Detroit Red Wings saw one winning streak end when they last traveled to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Central Division leaders will be trying to avoid a similar fate Friday night as they head to Nationwide Arena looking for their season-high seventh consecutive victory overall.
The Red Wings (37-11-7) entered their matchup on Jan. 27 having won five straight from the Blue Jackets. But that streak ended with a 3-2 overtime defeat as Columbus captain Rick Nash recorded his third career hat trick and second versus the Red Wings.
Detroit was without Pavel Datsyuk and captain Nicklas Lidstrom due to an NHL-sanctioned one-game suspension for not fulfilling duties at the All-Star game, while Henrik Zetterberg was limited to two periods because of back spasms.
All three, however, have been present for most of the Red Wings' six-game winning streak, which began Feb. 2. While they were held without a point Thursday, Marian Hossa assisted on a pair of goals in a 50-second span in the second period for a 4-2 win over visiting Minnesota.
"We've got other guys who are pretty good too," said Mikael Samuelsson, who scored his 15th of the season.
Hossa - with team highs in assists (44) and points (68) - has been particularly hot lately, totaling seven goals and three assists in the Red Wings' last six games. He also has 10 goals and four assists in his last eight matchups with Columbus (26-23-5).
During its current streak, Detroit has outscored the opposition 28-15 after totaling just 14 goals in a season-high five-game skid. This run, though, matches one from Dec. 30-Jan. 10, and is the Red Wings' longest since reeling off eight in a row from Jan. 17-Feb. 5, 2008.
The Red Wings have outscored the Blue Jackets 20-10 in the last six matchups, but Columbus has allowed just two goals in winning the first two contests on its three-game homestand thanks to an unlikely source.
Dan LaCosta, recalled from Syracuse of the AHL last Friday with Steve Mason (mononucleosis) and backup Wade Dubielewicz (flu) sidelined, defeated Western Conference-leading San Jose in his first career start Saturday before making 31 saves on Tuesday in a 3-0 win against Colorado.
That's helped Columbus move within two points of Dallas and Minnesota, who are currently tied for the eighth and final postseason spot in the crowded West. The Blue Jackets, who entered the NHL in 2000, have yet to reach the postseason.
"Our players recognized the sense of urgency (Tuesday)," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Going out in the third period you could feel it. ... When you have teams below you in the standings, you have to get points."
LaCosta was sent back to Syracuse earlier Friday to make room for Mason, who was activated off injured reserve and will likely start against Detroit. Mason - the league leader in goals-against average (2.09) and shutouts (seven) - has a 1.96 GAA in splitting two starts against Detroit.
Hitchcock's club has steadily been collecting points at home, winning 12 of its last 16 there. Columbus is also 5-3-1 in the last nine home contests versus Detroit.
Nash leads the Blue Jackets with 48 points and has 18 goals and 16 assists in 35 career matchups versus the Red Wings.
Against the Blue Jackets, Datsyuk has five goals and 12 assists during a nine-game point streak, while Zetterberg has seven goals and five assists in an eight-game run. Lidstrom has 31 assists and 38 points in 45 career contests versus Columbus.