Detroit (47-15-9) at Atlanta (29-36-6), 7:30 p.m. EDT
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Detroit Red Wings are locked in a tight race
for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Being the best
road team in the NHL could help them achieve that goal.
The Red Wings try for their fourth straight win overall and
fifth in a row on the road when they face the Atlanta Thrashers
in the opener of a three-game trip Friday night.
Detroit leads the league with 103 points, but is battling to
hold off San Jose and Boston for the top overall spot. The Wings
stayed hot Tuesday, defeating Philadelphia 3-2 at home and
improving to 16-4-2 since a season-high five-game losing streak
from January 17-31.
After playing its previous two games away from Joe Louis Arena,
Detroit heads back out on the road, where it's 21-10-5 for an
NHL-high 47 points. The Red Wings have five road games remaining
as they look to lock down the league's best record.
Detroit's 26-5-4 mark at Joe Louis is second to San Jose's
NHL-best 27-3-4 record at home.
Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg scored 1:32 apart in the
third period Tuesday to rally the Wings to the victory.
"This game's fair. If you do things right and do them right
longer, you tend to win more often," coach Mike Babcock said.
"We made a mistake a couple times and they scored on their
chances, but I thought it was fair. The team that stuck with it
the longest got a win tonight."
Detroit's last visit to Atlanta resulted in a 7-6 loss December
13, 2005, but the Wings are 8-2-0 all-time against the
Thrashers. The Red Wings won the first meeting this season 5-3
on October 24.
Pavel Datsyuk, fourth in the NHL with 87 points, has nine goals
and 20 assists in the last 22 games. The All-Star center had a
goal and an assist Tuesday to extend his point streak to six
games, giving him three goals and seven assists over that span.
Datsyuk has three goals and six assists in six games against the
Friday's game will be the first in Atlanta for Marian Hossa
since being traded away last season. The star forward played
nearly three seasons with the Thrashers from 2005-08, recording
108 goals and 140 assists in 222 games.
Hossa, dealt from the Thrashers to Pittsburgh last February 26
before signing with the Red Wings in the offseason, had two
goals and an assist in the October 24 victory.
Detroit is playing a Thrashers team that has little chance of
making the playoffs, as it sits 13th in the Eastern Conference,
17 points behind eighth-place Carolina. The Thrashers, however,
had won a franchise-record six straight before losing 6-2 at
Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Thrashers recorded two shutouts and outscored opponents 22-9
during their run. The last two wins during the streak came
without star winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who missed the last three
games with an unspecified upper body injury.
Kovalchuk, however, practiced Thursday and is expected to return
Friday. Rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian also practiced, and he
may be in the lineup as well after being knocked out of
Tuesday's loss on a hit by Matt Cooke.
Bogosian, taken third overall in the June draft, has five goals
and seven assists in 36 games.