The Detroit Red Wings could use some consistency in the final month of the season if they are going to keep their streak of playoff appearances intact. A home meeting with the struggling Minnesota Wild might be a good place to start.
The Red Wings look to continue their success against the Wild at Joe Louis Arena when the teams meet there for the first time this season Thursday night.
Detroit (31-23-12) has not won three in a row since a season-high four-game run from Dec. 11-17, going 13-12-7 since and posting consecutive wins four times.
The Red Wings were again in position to win their third straight Tuesday, but wasted a one-goal lead in a listless third period and lost 4-2 at home to Calgary. That performance came two nights after they scored five second-period goals to rally for a 5-4 road win over Central Division-leading Chicago.
"We play one, then not the next one," coach Mike Babcock said. "We need to put a string together. We got outshot 15-4 at home in the third period (against the Flames) in a game that desperation on both sides should show. We were playing against a team that wants to get in the playoffs. We need to show that we want to be in, as well."
The two-time defending Western Conference champion, Detroit is in ninth place, one point behind Calgary with 16 games remaining. The Wings have reached the playoffs in 18 consecutive seasons -- the longest such streak in major professional sports.
"It's not going to be easy," right wing Jason Williams said of extending that run.
A big factor in the Red Wings' struggles has been the club's play at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit usually enjoys one of the biggest home-ice advantages in the NHL, but is 3-3-3 in its last nine at home and 17-10-5 there on the season.
The Wings have dominated the Wild in Detroit, going 11-3-1 with a tie and winning five of the last six.
The teams split their first two meetings this season, with Detroit losing 5-2 on Jan. 27 in the most recent matchup.
Wings leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk scored one goal in each of his last three games and is on a six-game point streak, with four goals and five assists in that span.
He scored two goals in the last meeting with Minnesota (31-28-6), and has one goal and six assists in the previous five matchups in Detroit.
The Wild, 12th in the conference and seven points behind the Flames with 17 games left, have lost three in a row and five of seven.
They squandered a two-goal, third-period lead and lost 3-2 in a shootout to Florida on Tuesday. Minnesota managed 11 shots on goal, a franchise record for fewest in a home game.
"It's frustrating. It's desperation time this time of year and we came up short," defenseman Nick Schultz said.
The Wild, losers of eight of 10 on the road, might be without defensemen Brent Burns (hip) and Shane Hnidy (leg) after they left Tuesday's game with injuries.