- Associated Press - Monday, April 15, 2013

The Detroit Red Wings are doing everything they can to extend their postseason streak to 22 years, preparing diligently and playing hard, before turning to TVs and cellphones to watch the competition.

“I would be lying if I told you I didn’t,” Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard acknowledged. “Of course we’re going to watch and be looking at the standings and want to know what we have in front of us. It’s in our own hands. It’s up to us to go out there and get wins.”

The Red Wings earned two points they desperately needed Sunday night with a 3-0 victory at Nashville, putting them in eighth place _ at least for a day _ in the Western Conference standings.

The streaking Dallas Stars, Columbus and Phoenix are all close enough to end Detroit’s remarkable run. And things are exciting all over the NHL.

Only one team in each conference had been eliminated from playoff contention as of Monday morning, setting up a frenetic ending to this 48-game, lockout-shortened sprint of a season.

In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders are trying to hold on to the last two postseason spots. The Rangers trail the Islanders by a single point after a 1-0 overtime win Saturday night.

“I’m not even thinking about playoffs,” Rangers coach John Tortorella insisted after the victory.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano, meanwhile, was a little more forthcoming about the point his team got with the loss in OT.

“It could be a big point as we move down the line,” Capuano said.

The playoffs begin April 30 for 16 teams that will have a shot to hoist the Stanley Cup two months later. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings became the first team seeded eighth to win an NHL title.

The Islanders are shooting for their first playoff appearance since 2007, but the Rangers are right on their tails, Winnipeg is just three points behind and Buffalo is five back. New Jersey, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Carolina were mathematically still in the race.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper, though, said his team has “no chance” to rally from nine points out with just six games remaining after winning only one of six games.

“Let’s be realists,” Cooper said.

Buffalo gave its team a realistic chance by beating two potential contenders _ the Flyers and Lightning over the weekend _ and with a schedule that includes three of its last five games are against the Rangers, Jets and Islanders.

“We are going to make this pretty interesting,” Sabres center Kevin Porter said Sunday after the 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.

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