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Surging Blue Jackets face West-leading Red Wings

Detroit (45-15-9) at Columbus (36-27-6), 5:00 pm EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Some impressive wins against the

NHL's better teams has bolstered the Columbus Blue Jackets'

chances of reaching the playoffs for the first time in franchise

history.

Looking for their fifth straight win, the host Blue Jackets on

Sunday go for their first season-series win over the Western

Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit sits atop the West after going 8-3-1 since Feb. 18, but

also had one of its ugliest outings of the season during that

stretch, losing 8-2 at home to Columbus on March 7.

The Blue Jackets have built off that in impressive fashion by

shutting out Eastern Conference-leading Boston and ending

Pittsburgh's seven-game winning streak before Friday's 5-3

triumph over Chicago. That surge has pushed Columbus into sixth

place in the West - one point behind Vancouver and just five in

back of the fourth-place Blackhawks.

After losing the first two meetings this season, the Blue

Jackets have taken three straight from the Red Wings, including

two victories at Nationwide Arena. Columbus has never beaten

Detroit more than three times in a season, and is 14-28-7 with

one tie all-time against the Wings, who appear headed to their

eighth straight Central Division title.

Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has recorded two hat tricks

against the Red Wings this season, and three of his four career

three-goal games have come against Detroit, including in the

rout earlier this month.

But Columbus has gotten a big boost from recently acquired

Antoine Vermette, who scored twice in the victory over the

Blackhawks. The center has three goals and three assists in

four games since coming over from Ottawa at the trade deadline

for goaltender Pascal Leclaire.

"I got to say since I got here, the guys have made it easy on

me. Everyone is working hard and working the same way,"

Vermette said. "I've been lucky enough to never miss one

playoff. Having a chance to join this group of guys and make a

pretty good push, I'm pretty happy about it."

The Red Wings will look to cool off Vermette and the Blue

Jackets on Sunday, but it won't be easy. Detroit's defense has

allowed at least six goals in three of its last seven games -

all losses. In the other four, all wins, the Red Wings have

allowed two or fewer, including in a 5-2 victory over St. Louis

on Saturday.

Detroit trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period, but scored

three times in a 46-second span during a four-goal second.

Pavel Datsyuk scored twice in the frame, giving him 27 goals and

a team-high 84 points.

"We shot the puck, we got it to the net and you really don't

ever bank on scoring like that consistently," Detroit forward

Kirk Maltby said. "A couple good shots either surprised the

goalie or handcuffed him and the next thing you know it's in the

net."

Datsyuk is looking to extend an 11-game point streak against

Columbus. He has five goals and 14 assists during that stretch,

including one goal and six assists in four games this season.

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