DETROIT - Having clinched a playoff slot for the 23rd consecutive season, the longest active streak among the four major sports, the Detroit Red Wings will host the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night in their next-to-last game of the regular season.
Detroit is staring at a matchup with either top-seeded Boston or Metropolitan Division champion Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, but coach Mike Babcock likes his team's chances.
"We're just in and whoever we get we're going to be a tough out," Babcock said.
The Red Wings are tied with Columbus for the final two wild-card slots in the Eastern Conference, although the Blue Jackets currently hold the tiebreaker. Detroit, which is 5-1-1 in its last seven, overcame a rash of injuries that forced it to use 13 players who were members of Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids in 2013.
The Hurricanes have dropped three straight and won only eight of their last 24 games (8-14-2) en route to failing to make the postseason for the fifth consecutive season.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, RDS, FSN Carolina, FSN Plus Detroit
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (34-35-11): Carolina has been outscored 12-4 during its three-game skid and went down meekly in its final home game of the season, getting blown out by the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Thursday.
"I don't think it was really a good hockey game by either team," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller acknowledged. "For our last game at home, we were looking for more. ... We looked deflated."
Jeff Skinner, who has scored five goals in his last nine games, is sitting on 31 tallies and needs one more to establish a career high.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (38-27-15): Detroit reached the playoffs despite the loss of two-way standout Pavel Datsyuk for 37 games and captain Henrik Zetterberg for 35 and counting -- a testament to the contributions from throughout the roster.
"Everyone gets injuries; it's just you can't get injuries to too many of the wrong people," Babcock said. "And when we lost Pav and Z (Zetterberg) for so much of the year, that's a chunk to have to play without your two best guys. But the rest of the guys have stepped up."
Goaltender Jimmy Howard goes for his fifth straight win Friday.
1. The Red Wings have won six of seven overall against Carolina and seven straight in Detroit.
2. Carolina owns the league's second-worst power play and has had only one opportunity in the past two games.
3. Howard is 2-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average in three starts versus the Hurricanes.
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