They are so used to playoff hockey in Detroit that the Red Wings figured they might as well start playoff-type hockey a little earlier this season. Just in case, you know, they don't actually make the playoffs.
The Red Wings welcome the reigning champion LA Kings to the Joe on Wednesday night and at this point there's no reason to call it a crucial game because they are all crucial for the Red Wings. They control their own fate but right now that fate requires them to be perfect, finish 3-0-0 to make sure they best the Blue Jackets, who can top out at 55 points.
Really, there's nothing more you can ask from the position the Red Wings are in. The season is in their hands; nobody else will have a say in how they finish.
Obviously the Red Wings aren't dead even if they lose to the Kings. The Wings will still have two games after this as will the Wild, Blue Jackets and Stars. Get one point even Monday night and the Red Wings are ahead of Columbus by virtue of owning the first tiebreaker. That's another luxury for the Wings; they don't need to be better than the Jackets in the standings, they just need not to be worse.
Lately, Detroit has been playing well on home ice, where it is coming off a 4-0 romp of the Coyotes. All things considered, the Wings have some things to feel good about.
But they get a Kings team that is no walk in the park. Yes, the Kings already have sewn up their playoff spot, but you have to believe they'd prefer to hold onto the fourth seed and get home-ice advantage in the first round, especially if it's against San Jose, a very good home team.
The one bit of good news for the Wings is the Kings might be without their captain Dustin Brown, who has an afternoon hearing with the NHL for a hit on Jason Pominville of the Wild on Tuesday night. The Kings have a lot more than Brown, but he's the captain and is a very key cog there.
The Red Wings have made the postseason 21 consecutive years, a monstrous achievement that is unequalled in sports. They still have the upper hand to make it 22 straight but to keep that position of strength they have to show some strength on the ice and win their games. First up: the Kings.
Other cinching/Elimination scenarios
• The Chicago Blackhawks will clinch the Presidents' Trophy with a win of any kind over Edmonton.
Toronto at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m. ET: Would you believe the Maple Leafs can get home-ice advantage in the first round? If they win out they could pass the Canadiens for fourth place. This one should be a gimme. Emphasis on should.
Chicago at Edmonton, 9:30 p.m. ET: The Blackhawks are just two points away from securing the Presidents' Trophy, but nobody else really cares about the trophy. It's the prize of home-ice advantage through the playoffs that counts.
San Jose at Phoenix, p.m. 10 ET: San Jose is in the playoffs now but wants that fourth seed and home-ice in the first round. Phoenix is officially done now because the teams ahead of it still play each other, meaning the Coyotes can't possibly get in.