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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, April 4th (All times Eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (21-46-9) at Detroit Red Wings (36-26-14), 7:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Red Wings have been doing fine without Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup lately. That said, the playoff-hopeful club is obviously excited about the star forward's probable return to the lineup on Friday when the Red Wings host the Buffalo Sabres.

Datsyuk expects to play Friday for the first time since Feb. 27 and he'll join a Detroit club that is riding a three-game winning streak, a surge that has boosted the Red Wings' chances to make a 23rd straight trip to the playoffs.

The Red Wings, who haven't missed the playoffs since 1989-90 campaign, are currently occupying the first of the Eastern Conference's two wild card spots with 86 points. Detroit is only one point in front of Columbus and two ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are just outside the playoff picture with 84 points.

Detroit and Columbus both have six games left in the regular season, while Toronto has four. Both the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs are idle on Friday.

Datsyuk has sat out 16 straight and 30 of Detroit's last 34 games due to inflammation in his left knee. The three-time Selke Award winner has 15 goals and 18 assists in 39 games this season.

"I expect him to be one of the best players in the world. He'll be fine," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said of his expectations for Datsyuk on Friday.

The Red Wings have been hit hard by injuries in 2013-14 and Datsyuk's return is only one step towards getting healthy for a potential playoff run. The club expects to be without captain Henrik Zetterberg for the rest of the regular season, and fellow forwards Stephen Weiss and Dan Cleary and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson are still sidelined indefinitely.

However, forward Daniel Alfredsson could join Datsyuk in the lineup tonight after missing Detroit's last game due to a lower-body issue.

The Red Wings picked up their third straight win by downing a red-hot Boston club Wednesday in the Motor City. Detroit rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third period to record a 3-2 victory and send the Bruins to their first regulation defeat since March 1.

Tomas Jurco tied the game and Gustav Nyquist won it with goals 1:42 apart in the latter stages of the third period to lift Detroit to victory at Joe Louis Arena. Tomas Tatar added a second-period goal and Jimmy Howard came up with 33 saves for the Red Wings, who have won six of their last nine outings.

"Goaltending was good, we survived and found a way to get playing and skating a little bit. We were fortunate enough to be opportunistic and get some goals," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.

Howard will get the call in net again on Friday when the Red Wings complete a three-game homestand. A native of Ogdensburg, N.Y., Howard is 4-0 with a 1.12 goals against average and .957 save percentage in his career against Buffalo.

The Red Wings have won the first two of four meetings against the Sabres this season, with Howard anchoring a 2-1 home victory on Oct. 2 and Jonas Gustavsson picking up the win in a 3-1 triumph in Buffalo on Nov. 24.

Detroit has claimed six straight and nine of the last 10 meetings in this series. The Sabres also have lost four in a row and 12 of the past 13 encounters at Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings are 17-12-10 this season.

The Sabres are last in the NHL with 51 points and are headed for their third straight year without a postseason. Buffalo has not fared well in a spoiler role down the stretch, losing five of six and 12 of its last 14 games.

Buffalo played well in a road loss on Thursday, falling 2-1 in regulation against the St. Louis Blues, who are tied for the NHL lead in points. The Sabres were only able to get one of their 25 shots past Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who allowed a goal to Cody Hodgson in the final minute of regulation to fall short of a shutout.

Nathan Lieuwen recorded 26 saves for Buffalo in a losing cause. Lieuwen surrendered a goal to Maxim Lapierre late in the second period and Brenden Morrow scored at 1:52 of the third to make it a 2-0 game.

"We can definitely look at the mistakes and see where we can get better," Lieuwen said. "I definitely think we could have taken this game in overtime and given them a run for their money."

Matt Hackett expects to get the start on Friday. His only previous appearance against the Red Wings came with Minnesota during the 2011-12 season. Hackett entered a blowout loss in relief and stopped all six shots he faced in the Wild's 6-0 loss to Detroit on March 2, 2012.

The Sabres have compiled a poor 8-26-3 record as the visiting team this season and have lost four straight and eight of their last nine road games. The club will complete a three-game trip on Sunday before hosting Detroit in a rematch on Tuesday.

04/04 10:51:42 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHI 5
CAR 2
Final
SAV 49
NCCU 62
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
GT
UNC
 
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
 
Final
MIA 7
FIU 2
 
Final
DET 12
FLASO 2
 
1:05pm Today
DET
BAL
 
1:05pm Today
MIA
MIAFLA
 
1:05pm Today
PHI
NYY
 
1:05pm Today
BOS
NEASTERN
 
1:07pm Today
TOR
PIT
 
3:05pm Today
CIN
CLE
 
3:05pm Today
OAK
SFG
 
4:05pm Today
BOS
BOSTONCOLL
 
5:10pm Tonight
ARI
ASU
 
Final
PHI 103
TOR 114
Final
BRK 110
GSW 108
Final
MIA 115
PHO 98
Final
MIN 105
LAC 110
Final
DAL 102
NOP 93
7:00pm Tonight
CLE
BOS
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
LAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
HOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
UTA
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
MIL
 
Final
TEX 61
BAY 59
Final
SYR 47
UVA 59
Final
SHSU 76
CARK 49
 
Final
NWST 92
SELA 79
 
Final
NCAT 67
COOK 50
 
Final
HOW 61
NORST 59
 
Final
DELST 85
HAMP 75
 
Final
STEPH 83
INCWORD 62
 
Final
MCNST 70
LAM 69
 
Final
NO 79
NICST 89
 
Final
SAV 49
NCCU 62
 
Final
ALAAM 75
TXSOU 77
 
Final
VT 59
BC 66
Final
MVSU 66
GRAM 62
 
Final
ISU 77
OKLA 70
Final
ALAST 65
PVU 67
 
Final
ARKPB 64
JST 62
 
7:00pm Tonight
UMO
AKR
 
7:00pm Tonight
NAVY
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
BST
EMICH
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUT
GEOR
 
7:00pm Tonight
IND
IOWA
 
7:00pm Tonight
FLGC
JVU
 
7:00pm Tonight
USCU
KNST
 
7:00pm Tonight
BGU
KSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
LIP
 
7:00pm Tonight
HC
GHND
 
7:00pm Tonight
RUTG
MD
 
7:00pm Tonight
GT
UNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
OHIO
 
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
MISS
 
7:00pm Tonight
DAY
RIU
 
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
TOL
 
7:00pm Tonight
DET
YOUNG
 
7:30pm Tonight
UNF
STET
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
HOUB
 
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
NEOM
 
8:00pm Tonight
NILL
WMICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
ILLCH
WRST
 
9:00pm Tonight
MIZZ
AUB
 
9:00pm Tonight
UGA
KENT
 
9:00pm Tonight
NW
MICH
 
9:00pm Tonight
CLEM
NCSU
 
9:00pm Tonight
UF
TEXAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
KU
WVU
 
9:15pm Tonight
CREI
VILL
 
Final
NYR 4
NAS 1
Final
CHI 5
CAR 2
Final
SJS 4
MON 0
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CAL
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
NAS
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
WAS
 
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
BUF
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLA
TOR
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
OTT
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
NYI
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARI
ANA
 
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
LOS
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
SJS