March 11, 2014 at 1:12 am

Terry Foster

Red Wings retaining playoff hopes despite their many injuries

Pavel Datsyuk is one of five Red Wings centers who are currently out injured. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

Detroit — The Red Wings are down five centers after Joakim Andersson said Monday he could miss two weeks with a broken left foot.

That’s bad news for the Red Wings, who are in a heated battle to make the playoffs. Only six points separate the No. 3 seed Canadiens from the out-of-the picture Red Wings (77-71), but including those two, there are 10 teams between 67 and 77 points.

That’s why Detroit’s game Tuesday night in Columbus, which has the No. 8 spot, is huge. Both teams have 71 points with 18 games remaining, but the Blue Jackets (whose game with the Stars was postponed on Monday) own the tiebreaker.

“We are in a lot of big games, so this is a good opportunity for us,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I was not pleased with the way we played (in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers Sunday). We have to bounce back.”

Anything can happen

The Red Wings have made the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons, and the hope is they get there again and see what happens. It’s no surprise to see the lower-seeded teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs win a series or two.

Take last season, when the Red Wings entered the playoffs as the seventh seed and ousted the No. 2 Ducks before falling to the No. 1 Blackhawks in seven games. Detroit led that series 3-1.

The Red Wings are capable of doing the same thing, assuming they get healthy. And that means getting Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg back. And everyone else, for that matter.

“We have been gunning the entire time playing playoff type of hockey,” forward Todd Bertuzzi said. “We are in a transition with the type of players we have (veterans plus a lot of youth). So this is going to benefit our team going into the playoffs.”

Getting to the playoffs, however, is the focus right now.

Injuries? It doesn’t matter.

“Absolutely we do” expect to make the playoffs, Bertuzzi said. “There is no doubt in my mind. This team is getting into the playoffs, for sure.”

Stress can be helpful

This team will find a way into the playoffs despite how grim things look.

But the long list of injuries doesn’t help.

While Bertuzzi spoke with optimism, Andersson’s news wasn’t welcome.

“Usually you shake it off after five minutes,” Andersson said of his foot injury, suffered by taking a shot off it. “But I didn’t shake it off. It was still hurting in the third period. I wear those shot blockers so I thought it was good. It hit a bad spot, I guess.”

That’s been the story for the Red Wings this season: Bad puck luck, bad breaks.

And while it may not look very promising, with so many guys out, goaltender Jimmy Howard had a different view.

He stood near a colorful white board that displayed the playoff push for the NHL. He pointed toward it and the fuzzy numbers that seem to change position every day.

“It’s been like this for a little bit,” he said. “I don’t think guys here push the panic button. We are just going to continue to go out there and play.

“You need a little stress to understand the significance of why every night means so much.”

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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