DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings have a magic number to get into the playoffs and it’s three points.
With four games left in the regular season Detroit needs just five out of a possible eight points to reach the postseason for a 23rd consecutive year.
“The job’s not done,” Justin Abdelkader said. “Things can always change within a game or two games. We’ve just got to go and take care of business and play the way we’ve been playing up until Montreal. We’ve been doing a lot of good things, getting good play out of a lot of guys. We’re close but we’re not there yet. There are important games coming up for us.”
The Wings had their four-game win streak snapped Saturday against the Canadiens.
Detroit’s magic number is also reduced when the New Jersey Devils fail to gain two points in any of their three remaining games.
New Jersey lost to Calgary on Monday, which reduced the magic number to three points.
“I think we take one game at a time here, but obviously we’re going to need a few more wins to get in,” Gustav Nyquist said. “The other teams are all playing for their playoff lives and they’re going to do their best and I’m sure they’re going to win some games down the stretch. So obviously we’re going to need some more points. How many? I don’t know, it’s tough to say but we’re taking it one game at a time and it starts here (Tuesday) in Buffalo.”
The Wings head into play Monday holding down the first wild card spot, a point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“We have to win our games and we can’t expect other teams to lose,” Daniel Alfredsson said. “We’ve got to expect that everybody is going to win their games to close the season. So we have to win our games to get in. It’s obviously better to be in a position where you control your own destiny and that’s what we want to do.”
New Jersey and Toronto are four points back.
“I think there’s a reality of where we have to be,” Drew Miller said. “With us, the way we’ve approached the last month or so, it’s just play one game at a time. We can’t look ahead. We just approach one game and have to win that. Buffalo, as much as their record it’s not the best this year they’re playing hard. We have to look inside ourselves and be playing well so we can get into the playoffs.”
Three of Detroit’s final four games are on the road, beginning Tuesday at Buffalo and then Wednesday at Pittsburgh, which is locked in the second seed already. After hosting Carolina on Friday the Wings end the season at St. Louis on Sunday. The Blues could already have their playoff seed locked in as well when that afternoon tilt takes place.
“One game at a time starting with Buffalo,” Abdelkader said. “With four games remaining, we don’t want to be waiting until the last game, hoping teams are losing. That’s not a fun position to be in. We can take care of our own business that would be the best way to do it.”
The Devils’ next is a game at Ottawa before ending with home games against the New York Islanders and Boston.
“I would think the urgency has to be there every night,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “That doesn’t go away. When you have a shorter window it’s more obvious to everybody. These games are the same amount of points as the ones in October. There’s eight points available and we have to get some.
“Each year you want to get off to a real good start so you don’t have these types of games at the end of the year,” Babcock continued. “You’re thrilled to have them when you don’t.”
In order for the Maple Leafs, who have just three games left in the regular season, to vault past Detroit they would need a lot to happen.
Being in the fight for their playoff lives is nothing new to the Wings, who have to win their final four games of the regular season last year to reach the postseason.
“Last year we experienced we same thing,” Abdelkader said. “It was a little different where we had to win our remaining games, but I think it prepares you for the playoff type atmosphere, the pressures. We can’t take nights off. Each game is important.”