Wings' postseason hopes perilously hang on one game

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader is expected to play Saturday against the New York Rangers, GM Ken Holland said.

New York — They’ve been in this position before, their playoff lives pretty much dependent on the outcome of one game.

Saturday, the Red Wings are in that position again, at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers (12:30 p.m., FSD/97.1, 1270 AM).

Win in regulation time or overtime, and the Red Wings are in the playoffs for a 25th consecutive season.

Win in a shootout, or lose the game, and the Red Wings need help.

Previous experience under these circumstances, said goaltender Jimmy Howard, will help the Red Wings.

“We’ve been here before,” said Howard, who was mercifully pulled in the third period of Thursday’s 5-2 loss in Boston. “We have been for the last several years. It’s come down to the wire getting into the playoffs, so the confidence with the older guys is definitely there.”

Wojo: Wings must show they can withstand tension again

So how do the Red Wings continue playing into next week?

The Red Wings and Bruins each have 93 points but the Red Wings have one more regulation/overtime win (ROW), 39-38.

There are variety of ways of securing a playoff spot in the convoluted NHL playoff structure.

If the Red Wings win in regulation or overtime, they’re in the playoffs as the third-place team in Atlantic Division and play Tampa Bay.

* If the Red Wings win in regulation or overtime, they clinch regardless of anybody else.

* If the Red Wings win in a shootout, they need Boston to earn one point or less, and the Flyers to go 1-1-0 or worse.

*If the Red Wings lose in regulation time, they’ll need Boston to lose in regulation time or Philadelphia to earn one point or less in its two games.

Coach Jeff Blashill believes his team is looking forward to the opportunity.

“We put ourselves in a position (Wednesday) by winning a game (3-0 over Philadelphia) to control our own destiny,” Blashill said. “So let’s go win a hockey game on Saturday.”

The fact the Red Wings still control their own destiny is also a positive factor.

“For sure,” forward Luke Glendening said. “We could be in a much worse situation. If you said at the beginning of the year ‘you have to win one game to get in,’ I mean, you would take that every time.

“So here we are, and we’ve got to win a game.”

How much the Rangers will be wanting to a game Saturday is up for debate.

If the Rangers lose Saturday to the Red Wings, it increases their chances of avoiding the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins in a divisional semifinal, and instead makes the Rangers a wild-card team against the talented, but inexperienced Florida Panthers.

The speculation of the Rangers avoiding Pittsburgh was disputed by forward Rick Nash.

“I’ve heard people saying it, sure I have,” Nash told the New York Post. “I can understand why the question (about preferring the wild card) would be asked, but anyone who has ever been in a locker-room environment would know that would never happen. The answer to the question is ‘no.’ It is the furthest thing from our minds.

“We're going to have to go through those teams sometime. We’re going to face a really good team in the first round no matter what. Our focus has never been on trying to avoid a team or trying to pick a matchup.”

But the Rangers announced Friday they’ll start backup goalie Antti Raanta rather than Henrik Lundqvist, arguably the best goalie in the NHL.
Defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh are out with injuries, and the Rangers will hold out leading scorer Mats Zuccarello because of a lower body injury.

Andersson recalled

Blashill will have options when he fills out his lineup card Saturday.

The Red Wings called up Joakim Andersson from Grand Rapids to give Blashill a good penalty killer and fourth line checker, in case Blashill wants to go that route.

General manager Ken Holland said forward Justin Abdelkader, who left Thursday’s game in Boston in the third period with a lower-body injury, is expected to be ready to play Saturday.

“Everyone who was available to play Thursday, we expect will be available to us Saturday,” Holland said. “We have bump and bruises, but this time of year, every other team has bumps and bruises, too.

“We expect Abby to play.”

Abdelkader didn’t take part in the optional skate the Red Wings held Friday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., but then again, not many players did.
Andersson, who had one goal and two assists in 28 games with the Red Wings this season.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com
 
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Red Wings at Rangers

Faceoff: 12:30 p.m., Saturday afternoon, Madison Square Garden.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1, 1270-AM. 
Outlook:   A chance to make the playoffs for a 25th consecutive season essentially comes down to this one game … Win in regulation time/overtime, and the Red Wings qualify. Lose, and they need help from other teams.