Red Wings feeling bullish about playoff chances
Detroit — The Red Wings’ playoff chances might become more crystallized after this week.
Four games, all against upper echelon teams — two against Columbus, one each against Washington and Minnesota —will supply the Red Wings with a stern overall test, and either leave their playoff hopes energized or squashed.
But currently on a two-game win streak, and with goaltender Petr Mrazek coming off a 42-save shutout victory, the Red Wings are heading into the week with a sense of optimism.
“We have good teams we’ll be playing against, but our thing is just to kind of play the way we’ve been doing,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “Play hard, get pucks deep, get pucks to the net, and that’s kind of our mentality going forward.
“I know we haven’t won more than three games in a row since the start of the season, but we’re going to try to change that. We have to do that, if we’re going to be a playoff team.”
The Red Wings remain a bit of a long shot to make the playoffs — entering Monday trailing Boston by five points in the divisional race and Philadelphia by six points for the wild-card — but with 30 games left and that win streak, there is hope.
"There are so many points left in the season,” said forward Steve Ott, who was activated Monday off the injured list. “When you have 30 games to go, the standings will switch so much until probably the last game of the year, like it has every single year.
“We know the magical number probably to get into the playoffs is usually around the mid-90s, but for us right now, we have to continue to bank points.
“You get points and suddenly you start to creep up the standings and a month later you’re four points out, then two points out. Our mentality is to make the playoffs, and you’ve seen so many times, whoever just gets into the playoffs now has a legitimate chance.”
The Red Wings will be without forward Frans Nielsen (shoulder) and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (lower body), said coach Jeff Blashill, for the next two games.
Nielsen was placed on the seven-day injured list, with Ott (shoulder) being activated.
Blashill believes both injuries are short term.
“We’ll just call it day to day for now,” Blashill said.
Ott hasn’t played since Jan. 12 in Dallas.
“It’s time to get back in the lineup and be ready to go,” said Ott, although Blashill made no firm commitment to how the lineup will look Tuesday against Columbus.
After some dismal starts lately, the Red Wings have been much more aggressive and energized the last two games, both of which turned out to be victories.
“We’ve come out and done a good job, and that makes it easier,” Blashill said. “It’s hard to chase the game. It was good to get that first goal Saturday (in Nashville) on the road when you’re playing the back half of a back-to-back, that’s a critical thing.
“You put yourself in a way better position when you do that (get a lead), so that’s a positive.”
Blashill also liked the way the Red Wings battled under difficult circumstances.
“Our compete level in both games was real good,” Blashill said. “Saturday, in a game where we kind of lost our legs as the game went along, we still played real smart even though we gave up a lot of shots
“We kept them to the outside, and we managed to our game fairly well.”
Blashill, like many others in the Red Wings’ locker room and sports fans around the world, watched the Super Bowl.
Blashill, too, is impressed with what the New England Patriots have accomplished in a parity driven pro sport.
“It’s incredibly impressive, similar to what was done here for a number of years through the 1990s and into the 2000s,” Blashill said. “When you win at that high of a level, certainly in a league set up for parity, and you win that consistently the way they’ve done it, it’s certainly impressive.
“Obviously there have been two big keys to the whole thing, one has been the coach (Bill Belichick) and one has been the quarterback (Tom Brady) and those are probably two pretty important positions.”
There was joy in the Blashill household with the Patriots winning.
“My son is a big Patriots fans, so I was happy for him,” Blashill said.
Blue Jackets at Red Wings
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Joe Louis Arena
TV/radio: Fox Sports Detroit, 97.1 FM
Outlook: Columbus (33-13-5, 71 points) has cooled off (4-5-1) since winning 16 consecutive games in December…The Blue Jackets have the NHL’s best power play (24.3 percent) and elite G Sergei Bobrovsky (28-10-3, 2.19 GAA, .926 SVS).