Blackhawks battling for playoff spot as they face downtrodden Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings had 24 victories at this stage of the season a year ago. A strong finish led to a 32-win total, though they were well out of the playoff picture.This season has been much worse. They have notched just 15 wins with approximately a month remaining. They’re hoping to finish on a high note once again, beginning with a home game against Chicago on Friday. It won’t be easy, as the Blackhawks will be riding a four-game winning streak.The Wings are in the midst of a four-game homestand, though it doesn’t feel that way. That’s because they haven’t played since Monday, when they dropped a 2-1 decision to Colorado.Detroit has gone winless in its last six games and 10 of its last 11 outings. The Wings wasted another strong effort by goalie Jonathan Bernier against the Avalanche. He stopped 25 shots but the offense was once again anemic.”From December on, he’s done a really good job. You don’t have an opportunity to win in this league if you don’t get that type of goaltending.” coach Jeff Blashill said. “If you look around the league, the teams that do well get that type of goaltending.”At the start of the season, Bernier was in a timeshare with longtime No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard. Bernier emerged as the team’s top netminder in midseason with Howard enduring the worst year of his career.”I feel good. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Bernier told NHL.com. “All the effort I put in in the summer, it pays off in the season. I feel like they’ve done a good job managing me for practice and making sure I’m ready for games.”Bernier has recorded all but two of the team’s wins. In February, he had a .911 save percentage, aided by the knowledge he’d be the starter most nights.

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