Detroit (45-15-9) at Columbus (36-27-6), 5:00 pm EDT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Some impressive wins against the
NHL's better teams has bolstered the Columbus Blue Jackets'
chances of reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise
Looking for their fifth straight win, the host Blue Jackets on
Sunday go for their first season-series win over the Western
Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit sits atop the West after going 8-3-1 since Feb. 18, but
also had one of its ugliest outings of the season during that
stretch, losing 8-2 at home to Columbus on March 7.
The Blue Jackets have built off that in impressive fashion by
shutting out Eastern Conference-leading Boston and ending
Pittsburgh's seven-game winning streak before Friday's 5-3
triumph over Chicago. That surge has pushed Columbus into sixth
place in the West - one point behind Vancouver and just five in
back of the fourth-place Blackhawks.
After losing the first two meetings this season, the Blue
Jackets have taken three straight from the Red Wings, including
two victories at Nationwide Arena. Columbus has never beaten
Detroit more than three times in a season, and is 14-28-7 with
one tie all-time against the Wings, who appear headed to their
eighth straight Central Division title.
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has recorded two hat tricks
against the Red Wings this season, and three of his four career
three-goal games have come against Detroit, including in the
rout earlier this month.
But Columbus has gotten a big boost from recently acquired
Antoine Vermette, who scored twice in the victory over the
Blackhawks. The center has three goals and three assists in
four games since coming over from Ottawa at the trade deadline
for goaltender Pascal Leclaire.
"I got to say since I got here, the guys have made it easy on
me. Everyone is working hard and working the same way,"
Vermette said. "I've been lucky enough to never miss one
playoff. Having a chance to join this group of guys and make a
pretty good push, I'm pretty happy about it."
The Red Wings will look to cool off Vermette and the Blue
Jackets on Sunday, but it won't be easy. Detroit's defense has
allowed at least six goals in three of its last seven games -
all losses. In the other four, all wins, the Red Wings have
allowed two or fewer, including in a 5-2 victory over St. Louis
Detroit trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period, but scored
three times in a 46-second span during a four-goal second.
Pavel Datsyuk scored twice in the frame, giving him 27 goals and
a team-high 84 points.
"We shot the puck, we got it to the net and you really don't
ever bank on scoring like that consistently," Detroit forward
Kirk Maltby said. "A couple good shots either surprised the
goalie or handcuffed him and the next thing you know it's in the
Datsyuk is looking to extend an 11-game point streak against
Columbus. He has five goals and 14 assists during that stretch,
including one goal and six assists in four games this season.