Here we go! This is going to be fun! Don’t worry, I’ve already sent a gift basket to the Carolina Hurricanes. I was at the game in Toronto and a few take aways were: 1. We won without playing well for the first time in a long time. 2. Garret Sparks isn’t very good. Despite not playing great, the Red Wings got the W and now they’ve won three of their last four games and the playoffs are certainly in reach.
The Red Wings come into Wednesday’s game in third place in the Atlantic Division and have the same amount of points (91) as the Flyers and the Bruins. However, Philadelphia has a game in-hand and we have a game in-hand over the Bruins (tonight’s game). Technically, all the Red Wings have to do is beat the Bruins in regulation tomorrow and they’re in, but tonight’s meeting with the Flyers provides them with an opportunity to create some much-needed breathing room.
It’s going to be one hell of a finish and the schedule could not have worked out any better for the NHL. Unfortunately, Detroit will be on a travelling back-to-back in what could be the biggest game of the year, but that’s why a win tonight would be massive.
Tonight will be the third and final meeting between the Red Wings and Flyers and Detroit is still searching for their first win. Each of the first two games were decided by one-goal (one in a shootout) and were high-intensity, exciting games. The Red Wings had the flattest first period in the last meeting but stormed back in the last two to nearly tie it. Let’s break this thing down and hope they avoid a slow start tonight!
THE RED WINGS
*** Morning Skate Update: Tomas Jurco will replace Anthony Mantha in the lineup on Wednesday. Jurco has been a healthy scratch for the last 11 games, but will draw back in for Mantha tonight. Jurco has just four goals and two assists in 42 games this season. Mantha has played under seven minutes in his last two games. ***
Not much has changed in terms of lines and pairings and Pavel Datsyuk still hasn’t left for Russia. Speaking of Datsyuk (I’m not trying to be a downer) but if the Red Wings manage to choke this up and Datsyuk actually leaves next season, tonight would be his last game at Joe Louis Arena. That thought makes me sick, but we’re sitting in a solid spot right now, so that shouldn’t be the case.
Back to positive thoughts. Datsyuk has been doing everything he can to get the Red Wings in the playoffs, having picked up two goals and six assists (eight points) in his last eight games. The old school Mike Green has kind of showed up recently as well. The offensive-defenseman has three goals and four assists over that same span and Riley Sheahan has turned into a man possessed, scoring four goals with two helpers in his last six.
*** Morning Skate Update: Andrew MacDonald was ruled out of tonight’s game earlier in the week, but has been upgraded to a game-time decision. If he plays, he will replace Evgeny Medvedev.***
Up front, the Flyers look the same as they did when we played them last. That evening, Michael Raffl scored twice, which doesn’t happen ever. The top line is obviously who the Red Wings need to focus on containing. Wayne Simmonds, who has two points in two games vs. Detroit, is on a four-game point streak, recording three goals and two assists. Claude Giroux has heated up down the stretch as well, picking up four goals and three assists in his last eight. Finally, the third member of the line, Brayden Schenn has scored just once but has seven helpers in eight.
On the blueline, Andrew MacDonald (upper-body) may not play, which means that Evgeny Medvedev will draw in for the first time since March 12th. Rookie sensation Shayne Gostisbehere scored in the last meeting with the Red Wings, but has not scored in 10 games since then.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Jimmy Howard will get the nod in goal for the Red Wings. It comes as no surprise after Howard won back-to-back starts vs. the Wild and Maple Leafs. He has won his last three starts with an almost won relief appearance slammed in the middle. During those four games he has posted a strong 2.12 GAA and .917 SV%—solidifying the Red Wings’ crease with Petr Mrazek struggling.
With Michal Neuvirth out, there’s no doubt that Steve Mason will start tonight. He is coming off of a rough outing vs. the Penguins, but Pittsburgh has been doing that to everyone for the last month. Overall, he is 5-3-1 with a 2.18 GAA and .932 SV% in nine starts since Neuvirth went down. He started the last game vs. Detroit, stopping 34 of 37 shots, to hold onto a 4-3 win.
IN THE LAST MEETING…
At least this recap skips the majority of that atrocious first period. We NEED a better result tonight. Playoff hockey starts tonight!
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch it on NBCSN and if you aren’t near a television, you can catch it on the Radio with WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket.
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