It has been nine days since the Red Wings last game but they get back to work tonight in Tampa Bay and it is arguably the Red Wings’ biggest game of the season. They want to get their post All-Star stretch off to a hot start, but it comes against one of the NHL’s hottest teams and a team that they are tied with in the standings. Detroit is looking to push their playoff streak to 25 seasons, but as of today, only one point separates them from second place in the Atlantic and out of the playoffs.
The Red Wings finished their pre-All-Star stretch with two wins in their last three games and sit at 25-16-8 through 49 games. Tampa Bay comes in having won eight of their last nine games and are 27-18-4 on the year. The Wings have won the first two meetings of the season, outscoring the Lightning 5-2. Now let’s break this bad boy down.
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings have had a few practices since the break, but Riley Sheahan’s first skate was yesterday and he skated as an extra. Sheahan is battling an illness and is questionable for tonight’s contest. Speaking of questionable. Despite having a plethora of players that can play centre in the top six, Jeff Blashill moved Luke Glendening up in Sheahan’s spot rather than moving someone down. Dylan Larkin was the only player to represent the Red Wings in the All-Star Game and he was the difference in the last meeting between these teams.
The blueline stays the same after the Wings announced that Niklas Kronwall is on LTIR. This means he won’t be back until February 14th at the earliest, so Alexey Marchenko gets to stay in the lineup.
There have been rumours here and there about Steven Stamkos potentially being traded to Detroit, but as of now he still plays for the Lightning. Stamkos has 21 goals on the season and nine points (5G / 4A) in his last 10 games, which ranks fourth on the team over that stretch. The Lightning have been led by two Russians and a Swede in the last month. Nikita Kucherov has 11 points (6G / 5A) in the last 10 while Vladislav Namestnikov and Victor Hedman are tied with 10 points.
The Lightning could make some changes on the blueline, but this is how they skated on Tuesday. The Red Wings will have to limit their top-six as much as possible, but when you look at their point totals over the last month, it obviously won’t be easy.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Jimmy Howard started the first two games against Tampa Bay, but it will Petr Mrazek tonight and the Lightning will counter with Ben Bishop.
Mrazek comes into play searching for his eighth consecutive road win. During his seven-game road winning streak, Mrazek has posted an incredible 1.28 GAA, .955 SV% and two shutouts. He has been lights out all year and has creeped into the Vezina Trophy conversation. He starts the post All-Star stretch ranked second in the league with a .932 SV% and third with a 2.03 GAA.
Bishop lost his last start, but was 4-2-0 with a 1.77 GAA, .931 SV% and one shutout in January. Bishop’s numbers are pretty comparable to Mrazek’s—he ranks second in the NHL in GAA (2.02) and 10th in SV% (.926). The Lightning may have lost their first two games vs. Detroit, but Bishop was great in both of those contests.
WORDS FROM THE ENEMY
Stat to note: in #TBLightning last eight wins, it has trailed a combined 8 minutes, 4 seconds. Scored first goal in seven of them.
— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) February 2, 2016
* gulp *
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. ET at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network as a part of their Wednesday Night Rivalry series. Can’t watch it? Listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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