Another game, another must-win for the Red Wings. Detroit did their best to give Thursday’s game away, but walked away with a 4-3 win. The Red Wings have won three of their last four while averaging 3.50 goals per game and the power-play has actually clicked at 36.4% percent (4/11) over that stretch.
This afternoon they’ll wrap up their season series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Red Wings lost each of the first two meetings by three goals, being outscored 11-5. The Penguins will be without a few key players, but so were the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens and those were both close games.
The Red Wings come into play on the outside looking in, but they are tied with the Flyers (Philadelphia still has a game in-hand) and just one point behind the Bruins for third in the Atlantic, with a game in-hand. On Saturday, Boston is in Toronto, Philadelphia is in Arizona and the Islanders are in Carolina.
Let’s break this one down!
THE RED WINGS
In Friday’s practice the Red Wings lines looked the same as they did in Thursday’s win, but head coach Jeff Blashill said the lineup would not be confirmed until after warmups. Niklas Kronwall did not take part in practice, but Blashill said he took a maintenance day and is expected to play today.
Like I pointed out in my post-game recap, secondary scoring was huge for the Red Wings on Thursday and that will need to continue down the stretch. Pavel Datsyuk is one of the primary sources of offence and he has not disappointed recently—he has three goals and five assists (eight points) in his last nine games. Henrik Zetterberg on the other hand, has just two points (1G / 1A) and a minus-6 rating his his last six games. That top-line of Dylan Larkin-Zetterberg-Justin Abdelkader needs to get on the board.
The Penguins are missing important players up front and on the blueline. Evgeni Malkin has been out with an upper-body injury since March 11th and they announced on Friday that Olli Maatta is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Nick Bonino was also injured in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for today’s game. Malkin missed the last meeting as well, but had three points (1G / 2A) in the first game so we won’t be complaining.
Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang have killed us this season. Hornqvist, who plays on Sidney Crosby’s wing, has one goal and four assists (five points) in the first two games and Letang has picked up four points (2G / 2A). We also have to worry about Crosby and Phil Kessel. The former Maple Leaf hasn’t had the best season, but did score two in the last game.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Petr Mrazek will get the nod for the Red Wings. Mrazek looked incredibly shaky in the third period on Thursday, but was able to get the job done. Mrazek has struggled in March, going 3-4-0 with a 3.26 GAA and .894 SV% and against Pittsburgh, where he is 0-2-0 with a 5.20 GAA and .868 SV%.
Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal for the Penguins. Fleury is 6-3-0 with a 2.12 GAA and .915 SV% this month and stopped 35 of 38 shots in the Penguins 6-3 win over the Red Wings on February 18th. They’re also expected to announce their starter around noon.
DATSYUK TO JOIN THE GREATS
Howe, Yzerman and Delvecchio will soon be joined by Datsyuk in the #RedWings exclusive 300/600/900 club. He’ll gain entry with next assist.
— The Wheel Deal (@Bill_Roose) March 26, 2016
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 2:00 p.m ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch it on Fox Sports Detroit. 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.