DETROIT – Come Sunday morning the Wings could be in a three-way tie for first, or anywhere from one to four points behind one or two Central Division leaders.
That’s just how tight the race for the top spot in the five-team division is and it’s already past the midway point of the season.
“I think it’s going to continue to be tight and close,” Drew Miller said. “We just have to take care of our division games and hope they get some loses outside of the division. We just have to worry about ourselves. We take care of that and hopefully the separation will be there in the end.”
Currently the Chicago Blackhawks, who the Wings host Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena, are atop to division with 57 points. St. Louis, which hosts Minnesota Saturday night, is a point behind and Detroit is two points back.
“There aren’t any nights off, so to say,” Miller said. “You never really have a night off, but way back in the day there were games that weren’t as hard, but in our division every game is a tough game. Teams are getting up for us and we’re getting up for them.”
If the Wings beat Chicago in regulation and St. Louis loses not in regulation, there will be a three-way tie for the first in the division. Detroit and the Blues have played one game less than Chicago.
“I think our division has been as strong as ever,” Nicklas Lidstrom said. “Every game matters, every point matters. You don’t want to fall behind because teams are winning all the time. You want to keep up with other teams around you and we want to move up in the standings, too.”
Nashville sits just three points behind the Wings in fourth place.
“The whole Western Conference is tough, it’s tight all the way through,” Jimmy Howard said. “On any given night any team can win. It goes to show how much these points mean to teams out there. We got to stay banking them away now so come April we’re ready to go.”
Saturday is the third meeting in the last 16 days between the long-time rivals. The teams have split the two previous meetings with the Wings winning the last one, last Sunday, in overtime.
“It should be a good game, I mean, we’ve had two good games with them thus far this season,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “We usually have good, spirited games, both teams play well and it’s going to be a good game. The odd time it gets away from one of us, but normally they’re real good games, they have real good players. Usually it’s a tough test on specialty teams and skill in the game and a lot of speed.”
Both meetings this year had 3-2 end results.
“They’re very good and have great players, good speed,” Babcock said. “They make it hard on you. All you have to do is look at the points in our division and it’s very evident that we’re in a competitive division.
“I mean Nashville’s fourth in our division and they’ve got 50 points and they’ve got a real good team,” Babcock added. “So we’re all right there and it’s very, very competitive and those games are going to be spirited.”