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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
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
7:00pm Tonight
NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNC
SYR
 
Final
CHI 84
MIA 96
Final
CLE 108
OKC 98
Final
NOP 109
DAL 106
Final
ORL 99
IND 106
Final
PHO 100
LAC 120
Final
ATL 112
MIN 100
Final
TOR 114
DET 110
Final
SAN 101
MIL 95
Final
GSW 114
BOS 111
Final
DEN 115
WAS 117
Final
LAL 87
HOU 99
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
POR
 
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
SAC
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
MIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
ORL
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
PHI
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
BOS
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
DEN
 
Final
UCONN 66
SFLA 53
Final
GT 62
BC 64
Final
VT 47
UVA 50
Final
OSU 82
IND 70
Final
UCF 46
CIN 56
Final
WICHS 74
DRAK 40
Final
STJ 68
DUKE 77
Final
MAR 73
FAIR 67
 
Final
HART 61
MAINE 70
 
Final
MAN 71
MON 64
 
Final
PRIN 96
ROWAN 48
 
Final
SIENA 55
PETE 69
 
Final
RIU 53
BONA 48
Final
BING 54
USB 61
 
Final
MLOWELL 50
VERM 61
 
Final
BUT 77
SHU 57
Final
SALA 55
YALE 72
 
Final
PITT 68
LOU 80
Final
ILLST 53
NIOWA 54
Final
GTDNS 69
UMBC 55
 
Final
IONA 87
NIAG 64
 
Final
TENST 55
BEL 63
 
Final
NCSU 78
ND 81
Final
VILL 71
CREI 50
Final
MD 68
NW 67
Final
UTAH 77
WASH 56
7:00pm Tonight
AMER
ARMY
 
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OU
CLST
 
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NCCU
DELST
 
7:00pm Tonight
PBY
HIGH
 
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UNC
SYR
 
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DET
WRST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCAT
COPST
 
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SCST
HAMP
 
7:30pm Tonight
COOK
HOW
 
7:30pm Tonight
NWST
NICST
 
8:00pm Tonight
NO
CARK
 
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CAMP
GWEBB
 
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FAM
MDES
 
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INCWORD
MCNST
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAV
NORST
 
8:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
SHSU
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
STEPH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
TAMCC
 
8:05pm Tonight
VALPO
UWMIL
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAAM
ALCOR
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAST
SOUTH
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARKPB
PVU
 
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ISU
TEX
 
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MVSU
TXSOU
 
Final
TEAMFOLI 12
TEAMTOEWS 17
Final
CARTER 28
IRVIN 32