Whenever it seems like the Red Wings are getting back on track and are ready to lockdown their 25th straight playoff berth, the wheels fall off. They had two huge come from behind wins and then were shutout by the Maple Leafs. Then two big wins over the Blue Jackets and Panthers and then a blowout loss in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Thankfully, the Blue Jackets were able to overcome a late deficit to beat the Flyers in a shootout on the same evening, but Detroit still comes into Thursday’s contest outside of the playoffs, tied with Philadelphia, but the Flyers still have that game in hand. They’re also in action tonight, in Colorado to take on a shorthanded Avalanche team that is also fighting for a playoff spot.
Tonight will be the second of four meetings between the Red Wings and Canadiens. Detroit took the last one with a 3-2 final in December. Montreal has lost four of their last six games while averaging just 1.67 goals per game. They’re a banged up squad that is missing nine regular members. Let’s break this must-win down!
THE RED WINGS
The Red Wings did not practice on Wednesday, so there’s no word on whether or not they will make any lineup changes from Tuesday’s disaster. Tonight will be Anthony Mantha’s home debut. He picked up his first career NHL point in Tuesday’s loss and has now averaged 13:16 TOI in his first four games. The highly paid Justin Abdelkader has picked things up recently, registering eight points (3G / 5A) in his last eight contests. Over that same span, Pavel Datsyuk has seven points (3G / 4A) and surprisingly Darren Helm has four goals in his last five games.
On the blueline, it has been nice to see offensive contributions in recent games. Mike Green has six assists in his last 10 games and Niklas Kronwall has three assists in two games since returning from a knee injury. All of these individual performances are great, but this team needs to show up ready to go in the first period. They can’t be falling behind early in the first period. Full-60 minute games have been hard to come by and while you’re battling for a playoff spot, that just can’t be the case.
How many of these players have you NEVER heard of? Quite a few I’m sure. While they look extremely beatable on paper, this team is coming off of a 4-3 win over the surging Anaheim Ducks. Up front they’re missing Brendan Gallagher, Sven Andrighetto, Brian Flynn and potentially David Desharnais, who skated on Wednesday and could return tonight. Outside of their top line, they haven’t had a tonne of scoring. Alex Galchenyuk has been red-hot since moving to centre, picking up eight goals and two assists (10 points) in his last nine games. Max Pacioretty is on his wing and he has picked up the majority of the assists on those eight goals, registering one goal and eight assists in his last nine.
On the blueline, they are without P.K Subban, Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert and Mark Baberio. Their third pairing of Joel Hanley and Darren Dietz, consists of an undrafted free agent and a 2011 fifth round pick that have seven combined games of NHL experience.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Head coach Jeff Blashill did not announce his starter for Thursday’s game, but expect Petr Mrazek to get the nod vs. Montreal. Mrazek missed two games with an illness, but returned in a relief effort on Tuesday, allowing three goals on 18 shots. He has lost his last two starts and is 2-4-0 with a 3.30 GAA and .894 SV% in March. He has started each of the first two games vs. Montreal as well, going 1-1-0 with a 2.51 GAA and .923 SV%.
Ben Scrivens will get the call for Montreal. He is coming off of a loss in Ottawa, in which he allowed five goals on 44 shots. He is 5-7-0 with a 3.07 GAA and .906 SV% since coming over from Edmonton, but has really struggled away from Montreal, going 1-6-0 with a 3.71 GAA and .891 SV% on the road.
WORDS FROM THE ENEMY
Special game for Michael McCarron THU. He’s from Michigan and will play for the 1st time in the NHL in DET. 60 family/friends are expected.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) March 23, 2016
Michael McCarron may be one of the names in the Montreal lineup that you didn’t recognize, but trust me, you’ll notice him tonight. The Grosse Pointe, Michigan native stands at 6-foot-6 and is 231 lbs. The 2013 first round pick (25th overall) has two points (1G / 1A) and 35 PIMS in 15 career NHL games and has 34 points (15G /19A) in 65 games with St. John’s (AHL) before he was called up. There will be plenty of McCarron’s friends and family in attendance as well as many Red Wings fans lined up to see Mantha for the first time.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch it on Fox Sports Detroit, NHL Network or RDS if you’re in the French sector. If you aren’t near a television, you can catch it on the Radio with WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket.
Also, make sure to follow us on Twitter; we’ll have live tweets, GIFS, and all the fun stuff that a topical social media platform has.