NHL

Blue Jackets, Red Wings look to close in on wild card spots

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The Sports Network
4/8/2014 12:00:36 PM
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(SportsNetwork.com) - Tonight will go a long way in determining the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Columbus Blue Jackets welcome the Phoenix Coyotes to town while the Detroit Red Wings are in Buffalo to face the Sabres. Detroit and Columbus are currently four and three points ahead of the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, in the East's wild card race. The Maple Leafs are also in action tonight against the Lightning.

Columbus is currently in postseason position as it holds the second of the Eastern Conference's two wild card spots with 87 points through 78 games.

Columbus also is only two points behind Philadelphia for the third of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the playoffs. The Flyers, who also have four games left, are visiting the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

The Blue Jackets picked up a valuable two points in their last trip to the ice, while Phoenix is currently mired in a costly four-game losing streak.

Columbus, which is hosting its final game of the regular season tonight, used a potent power play on Sunday to bounce back from a deflating loss in its previous outing.

The Blue Jackets converted on 3-of-6 opportunities with the man advantage in a 4-0 home win over the New York Islanders, two days after losing Friday's 4-3 regulation decision against visiting Chicago. Columbus failed to gain a point on Friday after the Blackhawks scored the winning goal in the waning seconds of regulation.

Boone Jenner, Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray each record power-play goals on Sunday, while Mark Letestu added an even strength tally. Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves in his career-high 29th win of the season.

"This is a huge win," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said. "We needed these two points badly. Our power play came up big and (Bobrovsky) was great."

The Blue Jackets are 21-15-4 as the home team this season and had lost three straight (0-2-1) at Nationwide Arena before Sunday's victory. Columbus will visit Dallas, Tampa Bay and Florida to complete its regular-season slate.

Columbus notched a 2-0 win at Phoenix on Jan. 2, giving the Blue Jackets two straight wins in this series following a three-game slide versus the Coyotes. Phoenix has lost four in a row in Columbus, where it hasn't won since a 4-3 regulation victory on Jan. 11, 2011.

The Red Wings hope to return to the win column on Tuesday when the playoff-hopeful club visits the Buffalo Sabres for a clash at First Niagara Center.

Detroit is in position to secure its 23rd straight playoff berth, as it currently sits in the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Red Wings, who last missed the postseason in 1990, are one point ahead of Columbus and four in front of New Jersey and Toronto.

The Red Wings had won four straight before losing Saturday's 5-3 decision in Montreal. Detroit rallied from a 3-0 deficit to even the score in the third period, but the Canadiens recovered to win it in regulation.

Detroit used third-period goals from Pavel Datsyuk, Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall to tie the contest, but Brian Gionta restored Montreal's lead with 6:47 left and Alex Galchenyuk added an insurance tally a little over two minutes later.

Kronwall also added an assist in the loss, while Johan Franzen notched a pair of helpers. Meanwhile, Jonas Gustavsson only stopped 21 of the 26 shots he faced.

"The puck went in our net way too often. Obviously, you can't give up five on the road and expect to win," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.

Detroit fell to 19-15-4 as the guest and is playing the middle portion of a three-game road trip tonight. The Red Wings will complete the swing Wednesday night at Pittsburgh.

Tuesday's game marks an excellent chance for Detroit to get back on track, as the Red Wings have won seven straight and 10 of their last 11 games against Buffalo. The Sabres also have lost three in a row and six of their past seven home tests against Detroit.

Boone Jenner (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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