Detroit — For the Red Wings’ sake, it’s probably a good thing they don’t see much of the St. Louis Blues anymore.
Just one more time this season. The last game of the regular season.
The Blues will likely be preparing for the playoffs.
The Red Wings? It’s anybody’s guess.
On a cold Monday night in January, the playoffs looked very far away as the Blues soundly defeated the Red Wings, 4-1, at Joe Louis Arena.
“They manhandled us, to tell you the truth,” coach Mike Babcock said. “They were much better right from the start. We had been competing. We didn’t compete hard enough tonight.”
The Red Wings aren’t getting any traction in the standings, injuries continue to pile up, and the schedule is relentless.
“Obviously it’s a tough stretch,” forward Henrik Zetterberg said. “It doesn’t matter what we did in the past, it’s what we do here and now. We have to work on getting better.”
And, of course, what would a game night be for the Red Wings without losing another regular?
They got one back Monday, as forward Darren Helm returned, registering a team-high six shots on net in 15 minutes.
But the Red Wings lost goalie Jimmy Howard.
Babcock said after the game Howard re-injured the left knee that forced him out of the lineup for eight games in December.
General manager Ken Holland said Howard is day-to-day and his status for Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks will be determined today.
“Injuries have been funny this year, unfortunately, for whatever reason,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We can win with this group.”
Howard (who allowed three goals on 25 shots) left with 10:44 left in the second period, replaced by Petr Mrazek.
What’s frustrating for the Red Wings is that Howard had finally found some consistency and strung together his best games of the season.
It would be costly for the Red Wings to lose their starting goaltender for any length of time (backup Jonas Gustavsson is out because of a groin injury, but could return this week).
“We have to keep finding players,” Babcock said of call-ups from Grand Rapids.
The Red Wings tied the score late in the first period on Gustav Nyquist’s power-play goal.
But the Blues’ Barret Jackman and Kevin Shattenkirk (power play) scored 1:20 apart early in the second period breaking a 1-1 tie, and helping the Blues (33-10-5) take control.
“Obviously it wasn’t good enough,” Zetterberg said. “They were a lot bettter. It’s a game we have to flush.”
The Red Wings (21-18-10) are 2-4 in their last six games and 3-5-1 over their last nine.
The Wings fell five points behind Toronto, who won in Phoenix Monday, for fourth place in the Atlantic Division and the first (of two) wild-card spots.
The Red Wings are tied with Columbus and Washington for the second and final wild card spot with 52 points.
“We have to get rolling here,” Abdelkader said. “We have a lot of division games the last part of the season. We have to work hard and compete. We can get it done with this group.”
Nyquist’s goal, with 27 seconds left in the first period, was his sixth this season but first in nine games.
Monday’s game was the 26th time this season (in 49 games) the Red Wings have scored fewer than three goals.
Magnus Paajarvi and Jay Bouwmeester scored for the Blues.