Red Wings at helm of pack in playoff hunt

Published On: Apr 04 2014 11:49:17 AM EDT

AP Photo/Tony Ding

Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Detroit, Mich., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. 

DETROIT -

Everyone is points-watching.

Of course, that's if your team is still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and with a handful of games left to play a pack of teams in the East still find themselves in the thick woods, hunting away. 

The Detroit Red Wings are one of those teams, and they've done a lot of work the past week to give themselves an advantage in this expedition.

Their 86 points are enough to have them in the 1st Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, 1 point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets (85) and two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (84) -- both teams won Thursday night. 

View: NHL standings

The Leafs are two games ahead of Detroit and Columbus, who both have six games left to play this season while the Leafs have just four. An eight-game losing streak put Toronto in a spot where they need other teams to lose. 

Contrarily, the Wings have put themselves in a much better position with three straight wins (6-3-1 in their past 10), all of which happened to be against divisional foes -- Toronto, Tampa and Boston. 

It's huge because while the Wings have been doing their thing, the Washington Capitals (81 points), New Jersey Devils (80 points), Carolina Hurricanes (80 points) and Ottawa Senators (78) all remain mathematically eligible to make a playoff appearance. The Canes have 5 games left while the others all have six. 

The Red Wings can start knocking some of these teams out of the playoffs hunt with a couple wins of their own and a loss or two from the others. But the focus for Detroit is "win and you're in." A team can't ask for much more in this situation while there is so much at stake in the next few games. 

Because unlike Toronto, Detroit is in control of its own destiny. Oh what a difference a few weeks make.

What's left on Red Wings' schedule 

The Red Wings will play the lowly Buffalo Sabres twice before the season's end, starting Friday night at Joe Louis Arena. But before completing a home-and-home with the Sabres on Tuesday, the Wings will travel to Montreal on Saturday to face a playoffs-bound Canadiens team. 

Game preview: Sabres vs. Red Wings Friday night

Then they travel to Pittsburgh, come home for Carolina and finish the season Sunday, April 13 in St. Louis. 

Detroit is in control right now, and a couple wins this weekend would keep it that way. 

They are just a few points away from securing a remarkable 23rd straight playoff appearance. 

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