The Detroit Red Wings' hopes of capturing the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference appear to be slipping away as the club suffers through a four-game losing streak. The slump could end up costing them much more than the top spot.
With their hold on the Central Division lead and one of the top three seeds in the West in jeopardy, Detroit looks to stop its slide by completing a season sweep of the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
The Red Wings (39-20-8) have gone 0-2-2 in their last four, giving them their longest losing streak of the season. Detroit, among the NHL leaders with 220 goals, has managed one goal three times during its skid while going 2 for 14 on the power play in those games.
On Wednesday, Detroit grabbed the lead on Darren Helm's goal early in the first period, but couldn't add to it and lost 2-1 to Los Angeles.
"It was a tight game, we had every opportunity to win the game, we didn't find a way," coach Mike Babcock said. "We've just got to keep playing like that and starting like we did and getting pucks ahead and shooting pucks and going to the net."
The loss was the season-high third straight at home -- all in regulation -- for Babcock's team, which scored one goal in each of the last two. Detroit hasn't lost four in a row at Joe Louis Arena since Nov. 18-27, 2009, and hasn't dropped four straight in regulation on home ice since Feb. 7-29, 2008.
The Wings are in danger of falling out of contention for the top seed, but they may need to be more concerned with simply securing one of the top three spots. Red-hot San Jose is pushing Detroit for second place in the conference, and Chicago has gone 8-1-1 in its last 10 to move within five points of Detroit for first in the Central.
A matchup with the Oilers could provide the perfect opportunity for the Wings to end their longest losing streak since Feb. 3-11, 2010, and get back on track offensively. Detroit has outscored Edmonton 14-6 in three meetings this season, and the Oilers have given up nine goals in losing their last two overall.
Todd Bertuzzi scored twice in the most recent meeting, a 5-3 Wings road win Jan. 4, while Tomas Holmstrom and Danny Cleary each had two goals in a 6-2 victory Nov. 11 at Joe Louis Arena. Cleary has three goals and two assists in two games versus Edmonton this season.
Cleary, Bertuzzi and leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg, however, have gone without a point during the losing streak. Johan Franzen, tops on the team with 27 goals, has one in his last 16 games.
Detroit is looking for its fifth win in six home matchups with the Oilers.
Edmonton (23-37-8) lost 5-0 at Washington on Wednesday. The Oilers, who were outshot 36-22 and managed five shots in the third period, have scored one goal in their back-to-back losses after scoring 11 times during a three-game win streak.
"We're looking at guys and whether or not they are as deeply committed as they need to be to carry on," coach Tom Renney said.
Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 31 saves Wednesday, has played all three games against Detroit this season and has posted a 4.46 goals-against average in his last four matchups with the Wings. He's faced an average of more than 36 shots in that span.
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