Red Wings Clinch Playoff Spot With Win At Montreal
It’s the final Thursday of the 2014-15 NHL season and arguably the most important game on a busy night is an Original Six matchup between the Red Wings and Canadiens in Montreal. The Habs opened as -125 favorites on BetOnline.
No Pacioretty For Habs
Montreal currently has 106 points, two ahead of Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division title and No. 2 overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs behind the Metropolitan Division champion New York Rangers. The Canadiens were swept all five games during the season with Tampa so they would lose a tiebreaker. Thus a Montreal win or even overtime loss and a Tampa loss at home to New Jersey on Thursday (very unlikely) would give the Canadiens the division title.
However, the Canadiens will play this game and Saturday’s regular-season finale without top forward Max Pacioretty due to an upper-body injury. It’s not even a sure thing he’s back for the start of the playoffs. Pacioretty fell heavily into the boards after being hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in the first period of a 4-1 Canadiens win in Florida on Sunday.
“It’s a heavy loss, we won’t hide that,” Coach Michel Therrien said Wednesday. “He’s a guy that had quality ice time, not only offensively but defensively. At the end of games when we’re up a goal, he’s the guy we send on the ice. We used him on the penalty kill. But don’t make the mistake of tossing him aside. There’s a possibility he plays next week.”
The team is being vague about the injury but it could be a concussion and Pacioretty has a history of those. He hasn’t missed a game of any kind since Nov. 1, 2013. Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with 37 goals and 67 points and leads the NHL with a plus-38 rating.
Pacioretty’s spot on left wing of the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher was filled at practice Wednesday by Alex Galchenyuk, with Devante Smith-Pelly taking Galchenyuk’s spot on the second line with David Desharnais and PA Parenteau. The Canadiens had the 22nd-ranked offense in the NHL prior to games Wednesday at 2.59 goals per game, and Pacioretty has been in on 32.4 percent of the Canadiens 207 goals scored this season.
Wings Need Just 1 Win
The Red Wings have 97 points, good for third in the Atlantic but only two ahead of fourth-place Boston. which is the second wild-card team in the East. If Detroit loses out — it closes vs. Carolina — the longest active playoff streak in American sports could come to an end. One win in the last two games gets the Wings in. The Red Wings’ magic number is two points for a possible 24th consecutive playoff spot.
Detroit won’t have forward Erik Cole for the rest of the season, playoffs included. Cole revealed Wednesday that he has a spinal cord contusion severe enough doctors have cautioned him not to play again this spring. The Wings acquired, Cole, 36, at the trade deadline from Dallas, attracted by his 6-foot-2 size and hard-nosed play (since he won’t meet the games-played threshold, the Wings get Dallas’ third-round pick draft pick in return). Cole had three goals and three assists in 11 games before getting hurt March 24. He actually was eyeing March 31 as a possible return before doctors changed things.
The Canadiens are 3-0 vs. Detroit this season. Wings goalie Jimmy Howard was in net for all three.
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