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Apr 10, 2024 2:20 pm

Red Wings visit Pittsburgh with ‘huge’ playoff implications

Red Wings, Penguins

The calendar says the Stanley Cup playoffs haven’t started yet, but the standings indicate that the game Thursday between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Detroit Red Wings might as well be a postseason affair.

The Penguins (36-30-12) and Red Wings (38-32-8) are tied with 84 points each, one point out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and each has four games remaining.

“(Detroit) is a team that we’re directly fighting with, so it’s a four-point game,” Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust said. “It’s an absolutely huge one.”

The Penguins, languishing nine points out of a playoff spot in late March, have surged back into the chase for a postseason spot with a nine-game point streak (6-0-3).

Even with the point streak, the Penguins were disappointed to lose out on a second point Monday, when they lost to the Maple Leafs in Toronto, 3-2 in overtime.

“We’ll look at this, hopefully, as an important point down the road,” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said, trying to put it in the best light.

The lost point Monday allowed Washington to leapfrog the Penguins into the second Eastern wild-card spot with a win on Tuesday, knocking Pittsburgh out of a playoff spot. However, that win helped set up Thursday’s game nicely — it came against Detroit.

“We’ve just got to keep looking forward,” Pittsburgh winger Michael Bunting said. “We’re still in it.”

With only two playoff spots up for grabs in the East — third place in the Metropolitan Division and the second wild card — there are five teams still in the mix. The New York Islanders are third in the Metro with 87 points.

The Penguins and Islanders meet in their regular-season finale. The fifth team, Philadelphia, is just a point behind Pittsburgh and Detroit but has played one more game and appears to be in freefall.

Thus, the high level of intensity surrounding Thursday’s game.

Like the Penguins, the Red Wings are stinging some over their most recent game, the loss at home against Washington that also had huge standings implications.

“It just gets magnified now because of the situation. … But we still have some games,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “If we take care of business, I still think we’re in this thing.”

Although the Red Wings could muster only one goal against Washington, team captain Dylan Larkin called it “one of our best offensive-zone games in a long time.”

“(If) we bring that into Pittsburgh, it’s going to be the same kind of game. Hopefully, we learn that when we get our chances, we’ve got to bear down and put them in the net,” Larkin said.

And move on to a second straight game with a huge bearing on their chances to make the playoffs.

“I think it’s important that we reset, find a way to let go of (Wednesday’s game), move forward and kind of re-energize for the next one,” Detroit forward David Perron said. “If we have to run the table or do whatever we’ve got to do to get in, we’ve got to find a way.”

Detroit forward Andrew Copp left Tuesday’s game in the third after taking a stick to the face. Lalonde said Copp sustained a broken cheekbone, and the Red Wings on Wednesday recalled former Pittsburgh forward Zach Aston-Reese from their Grand Rapids AHL affiliate.

–Field Level Media

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