For Detroit, it's never too early to think playoffs

Associated Press
Published January 19, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Detroit coach Mike Babcock is already thinking about how his team needs to play in the postseason.

Tomas Holmstrom scored two power-play goals and Chris Osgood stopped 26 shots for his 42nd career shutout as the Red Wings beat the Blue Jackets 4-0 Wednesday night.

"All four goals, someone was right in the goalie's face," Babcock said. "That's what you want and that's what you have to do at playoff time to beat good goalies."

Mark Mowers and Mathieu Schneider also scored for the Western Conference-leading Red Wings, who won their third straight and improved to 5-0 against Columbus this season.

Columbus played stretches of undisciplined hockey, as Detroit had a 20-5 shooting advantage in the second period. The league's best power-play unit went 1-for-4 with the man advantage in the period, and 2-for-7 for the game.

THRASHERS 5, STARS 2: Visiting Atlanta scored three in a span of 7:38 in the second, erasing a two-goal deficit for its first victory over Dallas in nine meetings. Marian Hossa scored twice, including the winner on the power play in the second. Atlanta, with 52 points, is sixth in the East, three points ahead of the No. 9 Lightning.

WILD 5, MAPLE LEAFS 3: Marc Chouinard had two goals and slumping Marian Gaborik and Wes Walz also scored for host Minnesota, which improved to 17-0-0 when scoring four or more. Minnesota beat Toronto for the first time in five meetings in its five-plus seasons, the last foe the Wild had yet to defeat.

PALFFY RETIRES: Penguins right wing Ziggy Palffy retired, leaving the team without its second-leading scorer and creating another question mark in a puzzling, disappointing season.

General manager Craig Patrick wouldn't comment on a Slovak newspaper report that Palffy retired because of a lingering shoulder injury. Patrick said Palffy cited only "personal reasons."

Patrick said Pittsburgh had no concerns about Palffy's health when the team signed him to a three-year, $13.5-million contract in August.

Also, Pittsburgh traded a sixth-round draft pick to Florida for 6-foot-6 defenseman Eric Cairns.

CAPITALS: Rookie Alex Ovechkin will stay in the league after a judge ruled that he cannot be forced to return to Russia to play for his former team, Dynamo Moscow. Dynamo wanted the court to enforce a Russian arbitrator's ruling that the team still owns the rights to the 20-year-old left wing, who played three seasons there.

FLYERS: Peter Forsberg will miss at least one game with a groin injury, suffered Tuesday in a loss to Carolina.