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THN.com Blog: Wings playoff hopes in peril

While the Red Wings sit in ninth place, Jimmy Howard has a 2.21 GAA and .926 SP. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

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While the Red Wings sit in ninth place, Jimmy Howard has a 2.21 GAA and .926 SP. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

True, it was one game in a long season, but when was the last time the Detroit Red Wings got waxed 6-0 by the New York Islanders? I’d wager Denis Potvin was involved, let’s put it that way.

Could we really be heading towards a post-season sans Wings? This is the 20th anniversary of the last time it happened, but certainly no one predicted it in 2009-10.

Injuries, of course, doomed Detroit in the first half of the campaign and continue to hurt, with Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Jason Williams and Johan Franzen still on the shelf. Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary have also missed games.

Goaltending was also shaky early on, though with the exception of Tuesday night’s debacle, Jimmy Howard has taken the reins in net.

But you know who doesn’t care about those excuses? The cold, unfeeling standings box: The one that shows Detroit in ninth place in the Western Conference right now. With 37 games to go and an Olympic break that will see a cadre of Wings playing through it in Vancouver, there is no rest for the wicked.

And the fact Detroit has been so wickedly good on the ice in recent years is another reason they’ll be in tough down the stretch drive.

You see, the Wings have broken a lot of hearts and unfortunately those jilted are now in the best shape of their lives. Chicago, perennial Central Division little brother to Detroit since the lockout ended, is on top of the world and face the Wings three more times this season, including what could be a very important Game No. 82 on the schedule. Well, it won’t be important for the Presidents’ Trophy-sniffing Hawks, but it could be make-or-break for the Wings. Payback time, anyone?

Another frequent victim of the Wings in recent years is San Jose. The Sharks get Detroit twice more, as do the Pittsburgh Penguins – whom, I believe, won’t need Google Maps to find Joe Louis Arena by now.

Toss in the fact the Minnesota Wild’s troops have finally figured out who they are under rookie coach Todd Richards (and it’s kinda exciting!) and the Red Wings won’t be the only team surging from the depths in the next few months.

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Having said that, if Detroit makes the post-season, even as an eighth seed, no one will want to play them. Los Angeles is looking a little swervy right now, as is Phoenix, and both teams currently hold playoff positions in the West. There’s still a lot of hockey to play, but the margin of error in Detroit is thin.

A reversion of play by Howard in net or another key injury would be the dagger in a glorious, but bruised franchise.

NAMES WITH GAME
Don’t ask where my tangents come from, but ‘Henrik’ must be the most elite name in the NHL. The only ones in the league right now are Zetterberg, Sedin, Lundqvist and Tallinder; that’s a pretty tight group. Throwing out uncommon handles – there’s only one ‘Sidney,’ as Penguins fans can attest – I’d say the best competition comes from ‘Martin,’ thanks to Brodeur, St-Louis, Havlat, Biron, Hanzal and Erat, though a couple of those guys aren’t currently having great seasons.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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