The Detroit Red Wings are still the top team in the NHL, but in the last two weeks have looked vulnerable.
Detroit is just 1-6-1 in its last eight games.
Detroit has lost to teams at the bottom of the standings and also to legitimate contenders. The first two losses during this slump were to the lowly Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs, and the latest two losses were both 1-0 shutouts at Dallas and Calgary.
Despite ending their six-game losing streak with a 4-0 win at Colorado on Monday (Feb. 18), the Red Wings went back to their recent losing ways against the Flames.
On Friday (Feb. 22), Mikka Kiprusoff stopped 38 shots for his first goose-egg of the season and the Flames shut out the Red Wings at the Pengrowth Saddledome. Chris Osgood made 25 saves for the Red Wings in the loss.
Detroit is now 42-16-5, and is without captain and star defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who is likely going to miss a minimum of three weeks. Lidstrom injured his right knee in the Colorado game.
Detroit is also without a couple of other injured key players: goalie Dominik Hasek and defenseman Brian Rafalski
Despite the recent slump, the Red Wings still have a healthy 17-point lead over Nashville in the Central Division standings, although their lead over Dallas, who is No. 2 overall in the Western Conference, has shrunk to a mere 8 points.
If the season ended today, the Red Wings would face the eighth-seeded Vancouver Canucks (31-22-8) in the playoffs. Tonight, the two teams hook up at G.M. Place in the finale of a CBC Hockey Night in Canada tripleheader.
A victory tonight by the Red Wings in Vancouver is vital to show the rest of the league that they are still capable of winning, and to make a statement should these two teams somehow face off in the playoffs come April.
The Red Wings may be the "tired" team tonight, having played on Friday while the Canucks are the rested team, look for the visitors to come out and prove they're still the team to beat in the league.
Detroit is not the only team struggling and having to deal with injuries; the Philadelphia Flyers were dealt a severe blow within the last couple of weeks as their free-fall has jeopardized their aspirations of making the playoffs.
The Flyers, who were No. 2 overall in the Eastern Conference at the start of February, have now lost 9 straight. And this came after the Flyers began the month in promising fashion with back-to-back wins over Anaheim and Atlanta and were 30-17-5 on February 5th.
Philadelphia has not won a game since, and has fallen to last place in the Atlanta Division.
The slide has been inexplicable, as it came on the heels of a 14-3-1 run that vaulted the team to the second spot in the conference. In fact, just 18 days ago, the Flyers sat only three points behind the No. 1 seed, the Ottawa Senators, and looked to challenge for the best record in the East.
How things could change in a matter of weeks.
Earlier this week, the Flyers also learned that left-winger Simon Gagne, who has suffered three concussions this season--the last one coming on February 10 against the Penguins, is gone for the season.
Meanwhile, defenseman Derian Hatcher, nursing a knee injury, is out for three more weeks.
Also, the Flyers, who were one of the few teams in the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes, learned this past week that the Swede superstar will not return to the NHL this season.
Although the Flyers did pick up defenseman Jaroslav Modry from the Kings earlier this week to fill a void thanks to injuries to Hatcher, Rory Fitzpatrick, and Mike Rathje on the blueline, it was reported that the team was spurned by blueliner Tomas Kaberle of the Maple Leafs, who exercised his no-trade clause to nix the trade that would have sent him to Philadelphia.
The Flyers, sitting tenth in the conference and two points out of a playoff spot, will host the 13th-place Florida Panthers tonight.
A victory over the Panthers is critical, and the Flyers look to avoid falling further behind in the standings, and also matching the longest losing streak in franchise history--10 games. The Flyers went 0-9-1 during last season's last-place debacle.
Philadelphia is only 13-12-5 on home ice this season.