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Red Wings fall outside playoff picture amid sudden nosedive


The Detroit Red Wings' playoff hopes are suddenly in peril amid a six-game losing skid that has allowed the New York Islanders to jump ahead of them in the standings.

The Red Wings appeared to be closing in on reaching the postseason for the first time since 2016 before their season took a sudden downturn. Detroit sat in the top wild-card spot after the defeating the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27, owning an eight-point lead over the New Jersey Devils who were outside the playoff picture. The Islanders at that time were 10 points back with a game in hand.

Detroit, however, has failed to earn a point in the two weeks since that win, and now sit tied with the Islanders at 72 points, with New York owning one game in hand. 

Their latest loss came Tuesday in a 7-3 defeat to the Buffalo Sabres in which Detroit was outshot 39-24, including 13-7 in the first period and 12-5 in the final frame.

“Obviously, we all know that game we just put out there wasn't what we need at this time of year, and especially with the circumstances that we have on hand,” defenceman Jeff Petry said. “So, I think everybody realizes that and knows that we have to be better.”

The Red Wings have been outscored 32-11 during the skid, with Alex Lyon in net for five of the six losses. The 31-year-old is 0-4-0 in March with a 5.81 goals-against average and a .851 save percentage. He was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots Tuesday, but head coach Derek Lalonde refused to put the loss on him. 

“This is not on the goaltending at all. We left the goalies out to dry,” Lalonde said. “Poor Alex, in the first period, didn't have much of a chance. Your first look is [Alex] Tuch coming 100 miles an hour down the middle of the ice. Like, that's on us, a soft play up the middle, breakaway. They're a team, if you give them easy offence, they're going to [put you away]. That's exactly what we did in the first period.”

No deadline help in Detroit

Detroit's downturn has come as the team has played the past four games without captain Dylan Larkin, who remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. Larkin was initially given a timeline of two weeks on March 4.

Despite holding a playoff spot at the time, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman elected to largely stand pat at the trade deadline last week. The Red Wings made just one trade, sending winger Klim Kostin to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenceman Radim Simek and a seventh-round pick. 

Kostin, acquired in the off-season from the Edmonton Oilers, had three goals and one assist in 33 games with Detroit prior to the trade. Simek, 31, has spent this season playing in the American Hockey League after posting one goal and three points in 44 games with the Sharks last season.

After the deadline passed, Yzerman pointed to the organization's depth as a reason for standing pat, while also adding he didn't believe any of the players potentially coming in would necessarily improve their roster.

“Ultimately, I’d like to think part of why we weren’t very active this year at the deadline is that we like the depth we have within the organization,” Yzerman said. “We have some good players in Grand Rapids. So here, sitting at the deadline, looking at some of the areas we felt maybe could help us, ultimately giving up a first-, second- or third-round pick for depth, we’re better off bringing up our guys from Grand Rapids for that.”

“Whoever is coming in, somebody has to come out of the lineup whether they’re going out and getting traded or they’re a healthy scratch,” he added later. “That affects the locker room. But ultimately, we’re trying to improve the team, and at what cost? The things we were looking at, or thought we could do, to give up first-round or second-round picks and what we consider good prospects for guys that aren’t really filling holes, they’re going to replace the same player who is going to sit in the stands for them.”

The Red Wings will host the Arizona Coyotes, who defeated them 4-0 last week, on Thursday after spending the past four games on the road. The team has 17 games remaining in their season to try to end their playoff drought. 

Detroit will face the Islanders for the final time this year next Thursday in a matchup that could prove key in the playoff race.