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Playoff hopes take hit
DETROIT -- The surging Detroit Red Wings are moving closer to securing a spot in the playoffs.
Valtteri Filppula scored with 6:49 left and added an empty-net goal, lifting Detroit to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
The Red Wings padded their lead to four points over Calgary for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with their sixth win in seven games and pulled within four points of being tied for fifth.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock, though, is not resting easy.
"Sleep is overrated," Babcock said.
St. Louis, meanwhile, moved a step closer toward being eliminated from the race with its fourth loss in six games.
David Backes said the critical loss came down to a few situations in front of the nets.
"Those kind of plays are the reason the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs every year," Backes said.
The Red Wings have been playing their best hockey during their rebuilding season -- going 9-2-1 since the Olympic break -- after finally getting healthy to improve their chances of making it to a 19th straight postseason and extending the longest such streak in sports.
Detroit's Jimmy Howard made 30 saves to win his 30th win, adding to his Rookie of the Year resume.
Former Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin stopped 20 shots for the Blues.
"I thought we outplayed them for a good part of the game, especially in the third period," Conklin said.
Henrik Zetterberg and Todd Bertuzzi scored in the second period to put the Red Wings ahead. Paul Kariya gave St. Louis the lead in the first and Jay McClement made it 2-2 early in the third.
"Some wins aren't easy and this was one," Babcock said. "They were battling for their playoff lives. I don't know if they're mathematically eliminated, but they're darn close."
St. Louis is 10 points behind Detroit and there are teams between the Central Division franchises.
The Blues made it to the playoffs last year after a three-season drought that followed a run from 1980 to 2004 in which they made it to the postseason each season.