Tough-luck Red Wings ready for Carolina challenge

The winter of 3-2 continues for the Detroit Red Wings, and it is truly a winter of discontent for them.

Detroit coach Jeff Blashill likes to describe NHL games as a race to three, and lately, his team is consistently losing that race. As they prepare for Saturday's home date against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Wings have lost a trio of consecutive games by a final score of 3-2, and two of them were absolute heartbreakers.

Thursday, Marco Scandella scored with 0.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Buffalo Sabres a 3-2 verdict over Detroit. On Sunday, the Wings (24-26-10) fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs when Auston Matthews snapped a 2-2 with 30.2 seconds left in regulation.

"It's not for a lack of effort," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "I think everyone in here is trying, we're trying to push. We're just coming up a little bit short."

Thursday marked the ninth time this season that the Wings have lost 3-2 and the 31st time in 60 games that they've put the puck in the net less than three times.

Included in that group of setbacks was a 3-1 loss to the Hurricanes when Carolina last visited Detroit on Jan. 20, and Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg recognizes his team's Achilles heel.

"Goals," Zetterberg said. "That's basically what it is. I think we're going into the tough areas. We're going there for the rebounds.

"We've had our fair chances to put it away, but we can't find a way to do it."

Making matters worse, right-winger Anthony Mantha, Detroit's goal-scoring leader with 20, suffered a fractured cheekbone when hit in the face with a clearing attempt by the Sabres in Thursday's loss.

The good news for the Wings is that it's not a displaced fracture, so Mantha isn't expected to miss any games, although he will be required to wear a full face shield.

"It is difficult," Mantha said of wearing the face mask. "When you look down to try to find the puck between your legs, the lower part is kind of weird, but I guess you get used to it."

The Wings are also expecting to get defenseman Mike Green back for Saturday's game. Green has missed the last four games due to an upper-body injury.

"He skated today," Blashill said Friday. "He felt good, so we'll see how he feels tomorrow. But I would say he's a game-time decision."

How many more games Green will play as a Wing is another decision that must be made soon. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at season's end and Monday is the trade deadline.

"There's risk in playing, risk in not playing in terms of tradeability," Blashill said of Green. "But there might be teams that want to see him, too."

The Hurricanes (27-24-10), who fell 6-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, aren't expected to be active at the trade deadline.

"With our group, the way it currently is, we can get in," Carolina coach Bill Peters told the Charlotte News & Observer. "If there's some additions to it, then that'll help."

A 6-2-1 spurt moved the Hurricanes into a wild-card playoff position in the Eastern Conference, but that was followed by an 0-3-1 skid in their last four games that has dropped them a point out of the final wild-card spot.

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