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Power Rankings: Wings again driving for big finish

by | CBSSports.com Staff Writer

Updated Feb. 21

They've been forgotten at times this season, which can happen when you fall short of a third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance. But that's always a mistake when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings.

Jimmy Howard has allowed only six goals in his past four starts. (AP)  
Jimmy Howard has allowed only six goals in his past four starts. (AP)  
Problem for this team in the post-lockout era is that anything short of a Finals appearance means it fell short. So when the Red Wings lasted only two rounds last spring, the end overshadowed the fact Detroit needed a late tear just to make the playoffs.

The Red Wings were hit hard by key injuries last season and were below the cutoff line until players came back and turned Detroit into the league's best team, finishing 16-2-3. That was around mid-February coincidentally. The Red Wings are far better off in the standings now, the return of key players recently is making a difference as well.

Pavel Datsyuk came back Feb. 7 from a hand injury that cost him two weeks without missing a beat, picking up five goals and four assists in seven games. Brad Stuart is back. too, and the Red Wings are expecting Valtteri Filppula and Mike Modano.

And in the meantime, the Red Wings are one of the league's hottest teams with five consecutive wins and have a big lead in the Central Division.

Detroit started last week on the heels of a home-and-home sweep of the Bruins that was dominant enough to push Boston into some pretty significant trades in the days that followed. The Wings then had a statement win in Tampa Bay before finishing their road trip with efficient wins in Florida and Minnesota.

They're getting very good work in goal again from Jimmy Howard, who has allowed just six goals on 117 shots in his past four starts, and they are ramping up the game that does very well come playoff time. In case anyone has forgotten.

The rankings through Sunday night's games:


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