DETROIT >> Sunday afternoon’s game between the Wings and St. Louis Blues has a ton of meaning for one team and has little to no meaning for another.
The Blues need a win to at least jump ahead of Colorado for the second seed in the Western Conference and thus avoid opening up against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Avalanche play late Sunday night.
St. Louis could also still garnish the top seed if Anaheim fails to earn a point over its final two games, one of which was played late Saturday night.
Because of Columbus’ 3-2 win over Florida Saturday night and Philadelphia’s win over Pittsburgh, Detroit can’t climb any higher than the second wild card spot and thus will face the Boston Bruins, who will finish with the best record in the league after topping Buffalo on Saturday.
“Just play well,” Jimmy Howard said when asked what the team’s approach would be to the regular season finale in St. Louis. “You want to feel good about yourself going into the playoffs. It’s as simple as that.”
Had the Wings gotten the top wild card spot they would have played Pittsburgh.
“It shouldn’t be,” Niklas Kronwall said when asked if it’s hard to perhaps overlook this game. “We’ve got some things we need to work on so this would be a good time to do it.”
The Wings could have been a step closer to assuring them the top wild spot if it wasn’t for their loss Friday to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1.
“I don’t think we played bad by any means,” Howard said. “It was one of those things where we’ve been playing playoff hockey for almost two months and we finally got a place in the playoffs and took our foot off the gas a little bit. You could see it out there.”
Detroit is 3-1-0 this season against the Bruins.
The series will begin Thursday with game two taking place Saturday. Games three and four will be April 21 and 23 at Joe Louis Arena. Times will be announced later.
“There are lots of challenges,” Brendan Smith said of the Wings’ first round opponent. “They have scoring, they have physicality, they have puck-moving (players), they have arguably one of the best goalies and they have the makeup for a Stanley Cup team.
“So does everybody else but they might have it more than any other team because of their physicality that is stronger than other teams,” Smith continued. “The only other team I might compare them to is St. Louis. So it’s going to be a challenge for us.
Boston, which also has one game left in the regular season, has 117 points, while Detroit has 91.
“We’ve played them well, we play a system that does well against Boston and it’s something that we have to stick to,” Smith said. “If we get away from that or get hindered in any sense, then we’ll struggle. We have to play our system and play them hard. I think the biggest thing for us is puck-possession, no turnovers. That’s a big thing because they will put the puck in the back of our net. You look at their top two lines with (David) Krejci’s line and (Patrice) Bergeron’s line and it’s 1A and 1B situation and we have to be able to shut them down.”