My apologies for the tardiness of this Pregame! I pulled an Evander Kane this morning or maybe an Alex Ovechkin. I set the alarm to p.m. instead of a.m, rookie move, I know. After a much needed couple of days off for the Red Wings, they get back in action tonight in Pittsburgh.
Remember these guys? We’ve had some epic battles against the Penguins over the years, which is why they might be the team I dislike the most in the NHL and I’m sure I’m not alone on that one. Tonight will be the second of three meetings this season, the Penguins won the first one 5-2 in Detroit back on New Year’s Eve. Let’s break this one down!
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings are expected to roll with the same lineup as the had against the Bruins and the Islanders. Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall both remain sidelined, which means that Xavier Ouellet will play in his third straight game.
Up front, the Red Wings remain the same with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg still skating together. Detroit would typically break them up against the Penguins so that they can match up against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the Red Wings catch a break tonight with Malkin out with a lower-body injury. It should come as no surprise, but Datsyuk Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader continue to lead this team in points since the All-Star break. Datsyuk leads the way with 10 points (6G / 4A), followed by Zetty and Abby’s seven points.
As I already mentioned, the Penguins will be without Malkin for a seventh straight game, which is excellent for the Red Wings. In their first meeting of the season, Malkin led the way with one goal and two assists to earn 1st Star honours. Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang also tallied three points in the December meeting.
At that time, Sidney Crosby still wasn’t at the top of his game, but boy has that changed. He has been held off of the score sheet for three games in a row, but still has seven goals and five assists (12 points) in seven games since the All-Star break. Hopefully, the Red Wings can make it four games without a point.
Their blueline can be suspect at times, but the aforementioned Letang is one of the best offensive-defenseman in the NHL. Olli Maatta is an up-and-coming blueliner with loads of upside, but the rest of their blueline isn’t overwhelming.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Tonight, Petr Mrazek and Marc-Andre Fleury will go head-to-head in goal.
It is a big night for Mrazek, who was given Monday afternoon off to rest. He had a rough showing vs. the Bruins, but still walked away with the win. That was the first time this season that he has allowed more than four goals, so let’s see how he responds. He rarely seems to get rattled, even on Sunday he seemed O.K despite not bringing his ‘A’ game on his birthday, so I expect him to return to form tonight. Mrazek is 4-1-1 with a 1.99 GAA and .915 SV% since the All-Star break and 12-5-0 with a 1.95 GAA and .937 SV% on the road this season.
Fleury is coming off of a game in which he stopped 27 of 28 shots in a shootout loss to the Panthers. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.66 GAA and .903 SV% since the All-Star break and 6-6-1 with a 2.99 GAA and .902 SV% in 13 career regular season starts against the Red Wings.
IN THE FIRST MEETING…
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m. ET at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports Detroit. Can’t watch it? It will also be aired on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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