NHL

Red Wings look to clinch; Ducks host Sharks on TSN2

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The Sports Network
4/9/2014 11:47:07 AM
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The Detroit Red Wings can clinch their 23rd straight trip to the playoffs when they visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for Wednesday's battle at Consol Energy Center.

Catch the game as part of a doubleheader on TSN2 starting at 8pm et/5pm pt.

The Red Wings, who last missed the playoffs in 1990, need to gain just one point from Wednesday's game to qualify for the postseason yet again.

With 90 points, Detroit is five ahead of ninth-seeded Washington and six clear of New Jersey. All three teams have three games left in the regular season, and both the Capitals and Devils are idle on Wednesday. The Red Wings also are a point ahead of Columbus for the first of the Eastern Conference's two wild card playoff spots. The Blue Jackets play Wednesday in Dallas.

The Red Wings have won five of their last six games to solidify their postseason chances. After dropping the opener of a three-game road trip Saturday in Montreal, Detroit bounced back with Tuesday's 4-2 victory in Buffalo.

Darren Helm, David Legwand and Pavel Datsyuk scored third-period goals for the Red Wings in the win over the Sabres. Brendan Smith also tallied for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard backed up his offense with 25 saves.

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock won his 414th game with the franchise, vaulting him over Jack Adams for tops on the all-time list.

"The win tonight is way more important than that," Babcock said.

Detroit improved to 20-15-4 as the visiting team this season after Tuesday's win. The club will host Carolina in its final home game of the regular season on Friday before completing its schedule Sunday in St. Louis.

Pittsburgh is wrapping up the regular season on a three-game homestand that begins tonight. The club already has sealed up the Metropolitan Division title and is locked into the second seed in the East. All that is left for the Penguins is to await the outcome of the other playoff races, which will determine who Pittsburgh hosts in the opening round of the postseason.

The Penguins have won four of their last six games and are coming off Sunday's 3-2 shootout win in Colorado. Pittsburgh outlasted the Avalanche despite playing without captain Sidney Crosby, fellow forward Chris Kunitz and defensemen Olli Maatta and Brooks Orpik due to various injuries.

Pittsburgh could get some of those players back tonight, and the club also will see defenseman Kris Letang make his return to the lineup after suffering a stroke in January.

Letang has missed 26 games since last playing on Jan. 27 against Buffalo. The 26-year-old blueliner had been cleared by doctors to resume all physical activities in late March and Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero said it was up to Letang when he wanted to come back.

"Kris was cleared by doctors and it was his choice on when to return," Shero said. "He's been bugging me for a while to play"

Letang had battled injuries this season before suffering the stroke in January, but still has managed to post 10 goals and eight assists in just 34 games this season. He went on blood thinners following the stroke, but was taken off them when he returned to practice last month.

Meanwhile, Crosby, Kunitz, Maatta and Orpik all practiced on Tuesday and are questionable for Wednesday's game. Even if all four of those players return tonight, Pittsburgh will still be without several injured players, including forward Evgeni Malkin.

Brandon Sutter supplied both regulation goals for the Penguins in Sunday's win, giving him 13 tallies on the season. Jussi Jokinen netted the lone shootout goal in the second round, as the Penguins picked up the win at Pepsi Center.

Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 39 saves to earn the victory.

The Pens and Red Wings have split a pair of meetings in 2013-14, but Wednesday's matchup marks the first encounter this season in Pittsburgh. Detroit has fared well recently in the Steel City, going 3-1-1 in the last five encounters at Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh is 27-9-2 as the host this season.

San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks have a chance to wrap up their second straight Pacific Division title and set a new franchise record on Wednesday night when they host the rival San Jose Sharks.

Catch the game as the back end of a doubleheader on TSN2 starting at 10:30pm et/7:30pm pt.

The Ducks own a three-point lead over the Sharks for first place in the division with three games left to play for both clubs. Anaheim, though, can clinch the Pacific crown with a victory tonight as they own the current tiebreaker with 10 more non-shootout victories.

San Jose missed a chance to grab first place in the standings as it lost 3-0 to the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The setback didn't appear costly the following day as Anaheim lost a 4-2 decision in Edmonton, but the Ducks capitalized on their other game in hand by defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 on Monday.

"On paper, it sounds really good," said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau on Monday of clinching. "But the fact we play San Jose the next game, L.A. the next game after that, and Colorado, it's not going to be an easy thing. We've got to play a lot like we played tonight if we want to have success on Wednesday and beyond."

With starter Jonas Hiller having allowed 11 goals over a personal 0-2-1 skid and backup goaltender Frederik Andersen out with an upper-body injury, John Gibson made his NHL debut in net and posted an 18-save shutout.

At 20 years and 297 days old, Gibson became the youngest goaltender since Buffalo's Darren Puppa in 1985 to record a shutout in his NHL debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Gibson also became the first NHL goaltender of any age to notch a shutout in his debut since Al Montoya for Phoenix on April 1, 2009.

"The team played really well in front of me and made my job easier," said Gibson, a highly-touted prospect who was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft. "I only had to make regular saves and if there was any rebounds they cleared it out."

Daniel Winnik, Kyle Palmieri and Matt Beleskey all scored for the Ducks, who stopped a two-game losing streak and reached 110 points on the season to match the previous club single-season record set in 2006-07.

Anaheim also is one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the top seed in the Western Conference with three games to play.

The Sharks have been idle since suffering their fourth shutout loss of the season. Antti Niemi was beaten three times on 24 shots, with all three goals yielded in a span of less than 10 minutes of the second period.

San Jose had won the first two of a three-game homestand and host Colorado on Friday before ending the regular season the following day at Phoenix.

"It's the time of year where you can't have baggage," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. "You can't carry things forward."

Still, the Sharks face an uphill battle to pass the Ducks, leaving them a likely first-round matchup with the third-place Los Angeles Kings.

The Sharks have won three of four versus the Ducks this season, but all three victories came at home and they lost a 6-3 decision in their lone previous trip to Anaheim on Dec. 31.

The Ducks have won eight of the last 11 meetings at home overall.

Todd Bertuzzi (Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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