Much of that improvement in Detroit’s odds can be attributed to Toronto’s free-fall, with a slight offset courtesy the Washington Capitals, who’ve given the Wings another team to worry about in the race.
On Tuesday, Detroit lost a pivotal game in Columbus, controversially falling 4-2 to the Jackets, the other team in the hunt for the pair of wild-card spots.
Tonight, the Wings are at home to Montreal. Saturday, they’re in Toronto to play the Leafs in what should be the biggest game of the season for both teams, to that point at least.
The rest of Detroit’s schedule is a bit of a mixed bag, with tough contests against Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, but also a pair of games against the NHL-worst Sabres.
Everyone knows what’s on the line for the Wings — they’ve made the playoffs 22 straight times, by far the longest current streak in the NHL. But it’s more than history at stake. If Detroit can get into the playoffs, it could very conceivably do some damage as it gets healthier and healthier. Pavel Datsyuk should be back soon, and it sounds like Henrik Zetterberg could be back for the second round, if the Wings get there.
Add those two stars to a corps of forwards that already includes veterans Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and David Legwand, plus youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar, and, well, that’s a pretty formidable corps of forwards, wouldn’t you say?
At this point, the Wings would probably take the playoffs any way they can get them; however, one would think they’d stand a better chance against their old Stanley Cup Final foes, the ailing Pittsburgh Penguins, than the Boston Bruins. In which case, beating out Columbus, Toronto, and Washington to snare the first wild-card spot may behoove them.