The Detroit Red Wings will deploy an odd lineup on Sunday against Buffalo

Detroit Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde will go back to the blender hoping to find the perfect line combinations ahead of Sunday's contest.
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The Detroit Red Wings control their own destiny when it comes to qualifying for the postseason, but things have gotten quite complicated. Only six games remain before Sunday's date with Buffalo, and the Red Wings have just one path into the postseason. The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have rode four-game win streaks into a playoff position. The Penguins currently control the final wild-card position with 83 points, and the Patrick Roy-led Islanders are third in the Metropolitan Division with 85 points.

The Red Wings (82 points), with a game in hand on the Penguins, can propel themselves into the final wild-card position with a victory over the Sabres on Sunday afternoon. Buffalo trails Detroit by three points, so we can't count them out yet. However, a lot of teams sit in between. The Flyers have recently lost seven in a row, and the Capitals have dropped five consecutive games. Those lengthy losing streaks opened the door for the Islanders, Penguins, and Red Wings. The Red Wings and Capitals have a game in hand on Buffalo, Washington, Pittsburgh, and the Islanders, and two on the Flyers.

Before Sunday's contest with the Sabres, Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde is going back to the blender, hoping to find the 'right' line combinations following their third-period collapse in Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Rangers. The Red Wings took a 3-2 lead into the third frame over the league's top team but could not finish the job, prompting Lalonde to conduct yet another lineup shakeup.

Injuries force Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde to deploy an odd lineup on Sunday afternoon.

The Red Wings will oddly start Austin Czarnik between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. Dylan Larkin will center Lucas Raymond and David Perron. That leaves a third line of Andrew Copp, J.T. Compher, and Christian Fischer. The fourth unit will be Robby Fabbri and Daniel Sprong flanking a struggling Joe Veleno.

It just goes to show you how badly the Detroit Red Wings need to find a true second-line center to play behind Larkin. Two years ago, general manager Steve Yzerman signed Copp to a five-year contract that averages $5.625 million annually to fill the role; after he proved to be insufficient, Yzerman signed Compher to a five-year deal worth $5.1 million per season. I mentioned earlier this season that the Red Wings had a glaring need for a second-line scoring center this coming off-season, which would allow Detroit to deploy a third line of Compher, Copp, and Michael Rasmussen.

The Red Wings will be without Rasmussen on Sunday and likely Tuesday's contest against the Capitals. The 6-foot-6 forward is out with an upper-body injury after he fell awkwardly in the third period as he tried to clear the puck from the defensive zone in Tampa Bay and was unable to return. Veleno was asked to step up in Tampa Bay after finding himself coaching the staff's dog house, playing only a couple of shifts in the first period and one shift in the second period during the Red Wing's victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. He totaled under five minutes of ice time for the game, taking just six shifts. Veleno played just 11:46 on Friday against the Rangers and recorded an assist, his first point in 16 games. Over that stretch, Veleno averaged just over 13 minutes of ice time and was minus-5.

Defenseman Olli Maatta is nursing an upper-body injury and is questionable for Sunday's contest. Maatta and Jake Walman have basically just swapped in Detroit's lineup. Walman missed a few games, leaving Ben Chiarot to play with Moritz Seider, who performed well together, and Simon Edvinsson with Jeff Petry. Recently, Walman and Shayne Gostisbehere have been paired together, but that pairing has been quite a circus in the defensive zone lately. The Red Wings desperately need to upgrade their backend this off-season. Petry, Maatta, and Justin Holl remain under contract for next season, but a buyout for one of the right-handed shot defenders will likely be an option. The backend has let the Red Wings down this year and must be addressed.

Finally, goaltender Ville Husso is close to being assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a rehab assignment. Husso, aside from a quick attempt at a return that lasted less than a period, has been out since December with a lower-body injury. With time running out in the season, the chances he will be available for the Red Wings before the postseason are slim. If Detroit can qualify for the playoffs, Husso should be available to backup starter Alex Lyon.

The real question remains: is Husso a better option than James Reimer as a backup? Husso is 9-5-2 with a subpar 3.55 goals against average and a .892 save percentage. Reimer is 9-8-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. While we're at it, Lyon has gone 19-17-4 with the exact same goals-against average and save percentage as Reimer.