Pens, Wings clash in Motown

By The Sports Network March 20, 2014 at 11:07 AM
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( - The Pittsburgh Penguins continue their chase of the Eastern Conference's top seed on Thursday night as they visit the Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins own a 15-point edge over the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Metropolitan Division, putting the club in a great position to win a second straight division title.

Pittsburgh also trails the Boston Bruins by just five points for the top spot in the East standings and do have a game in hand.

The Pens had a rough weekend, getting swept in a home-and-home set by the Flyers, but bounced back to hand the Dallas Stars a 5-1 setback on Tuesday. Sidney Crosby led the way with a pair goals and an assist, while linemates Lee Stempniak and Chris Kunitz also scored.

Stempniak finished with two helpers and Kunitz notched an assist in his return to the lineup. Both Kunitz (lower body) and James Neal (concussion) missed the weekend set with the Flyers due to injury.

"Our line felt like we had some good jump. We're on pucks and we got rewarded for it," said Crosby, who leads the NHL with 58 assists and 91 points.

Jeff Zatkoff made 32 saves for Pittsburgh.

The Red Wings are fighting for their 23rd straight trip to the postseason and are a point back of the second wild card berth in the East. Keeping players on the ice has been the biggest challenge as Detroit has lost 323 total man games to injury this season.

Detroit is currently playing without a host of skaters in Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Daniel Cleary, Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Jurco and Justin Abdelkader. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson rejoined the list this week after suffering a fractured finger in Tuesday's victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 30-year-old had surgery on Wednesday to repair the finger and is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks. The Swedish defenseman missed time in October and November due to the birth of his first child and a shoulder issue, then was sidelined for a month by broken ribs suffered just before Christmas.

Detroit still managed a 3-2 win over Toronto as Gustav Nyquist scored twice and Daniel Alfredsson once to back 31 saves by Jimmy Howard.

The Red Wings had lost five of seven coming in.

"It's a division rival, big game for us, big win for us. We'll enjoy this for a few hours and then back to work (Wednesday)," Alfredsson said.

The Red Wings have lost three of their last four versus the Penguins, including a 4-1 home setback on Dec. 14.

Crosby scored twice and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists before exiting with a lower-body injury.

The win was Pittsburgh's second in a row at Detroit.


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