The Red Wings lost their first two games of the season and it looked like it was going to be a long season, but then Detroit rattled off four straight wins, including back-to-back impressive wins over the Predators and Sharks this past weekend.
After being outshot by a lot in the first four games, the Red Wings more than handled their own this weekend, outshooting the opposition 75-to-63. Detroit’s puck possession has improved, which is exactly what they needed if they were going to have continued success throughout the season.
Tonight the Hurricanes are in town and they come in with a 1-2-2 record while averaging 3.20 goals for and 4.00 goals against per game through two weeks. Over the last three seasons the Red Wings are 6-3-0 while averaging 2.67 goals for and 2.33 goals against per game against the Hurricanes.
Let’s breakdown tonight’s lineups and goaltending battle.
THE RED WINGS
Justin Abdelkader took part in the Red Wings’ morning skate, but it doesn’t look like he will play for the second straight game. Abdelkader was rotating on the fourth line, so Detroit will go with the same lineup that won this weekend.
Abdelkader’s injury means that Andreas Athanasiou will remain in the lineup and he deserves to after the goal he scored on Saturday. If you missed it or just want to relive it again, here you go!
The most encouraging thing for the Red Wings is the play of Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. The two wingers were excellent two years ago, but their struggles last season hurt the Red Wings’ offensive output a lot. Nyquist scored three goals in the two weekend games and Tatar continues to look dangerous night-in- and night-out. In addition to Nyquist and Tatar, Thomas Vanek has been a pleasant surprise. Vanek is tied for the team lead in points with three goals and four assists (seven points)—that’s tied with Nyquist and Mike Green.
On the blueline, Ryan Sproul will stay in the lineup after picking up an assist in each of his first two games while averaging 14:39 TOI. He has an absolute bomb on the point and he’s been using it (seven shots). This may also come as a surprise, but Jonathan Ericsson has been great in his sheltered minutes. Playing on the third pairing, Ericsson has the second best CorsiFor% among Red Wings defensemen (50.31) and might actually be a useful part of this blueline as long as Jeff Blashill doesn’t try to turn him back into a top-pairing defenseman again.
The Hurricanes are a young but talented group. Their top line of Jeff Skinner-Victor Rask-Lee Stempniak has been one of the best lines in the NHL early on, but they could be without Skinner tonight. Skinner missed Monday’s practice and Tuesday’s morning skate so he likely won’t play tonight. With Skinner out, the Red Wings will see some familiar faces on the fourth line. Both Andrej Nestrasil and Martin Frk, who the Red Wings lost on waivers to the Hurricanes, are expected to be in the lineup on Tuesday. Jordan Staal remains one of the better two-way forwards in the NHL and newcomers Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen have gotten off to strong starts in Carolina. They’ve got a lot of speed, which could pose problems for a Red Wings’ blueline that is not exactly fleet of foot.
The Hurricanes have a strong blueline as well. Justin Faulk is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL, especially on the power-play. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce were mid-round draft picks and have developed into top-4 defensemen and Noah Hanifin has the look of a future top-pair defenseman.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Tonight’s goaltending matchup is expected to be Petr Mrazek vs. Cam Ward. Despite Jimmy Howard shutting out the Sharks on Saturday and only allowing one goal in two starts, it looks like Mrazek will make his fifth start of the season. The Red Wings’ No.1 netminder has stopped 61 of 65 shots (.939 SV%) to earn back-to-back wins and was 1-1-0 with a 2.52 GAA and .925 SV% in two starts vs. Carolina last year.
Eddie Lack started the last two games for the Hurricanes, but allowed six goals on Saturday, so look for Ward to go tonight. Ward has lost each of his two starts this season while allowing a combined eight goals on 54 shots (.852 SV%). Ward was 2-1-0 with a 2.70 GAA and .877 SV% in three starts vs. the Red Wings last year.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit or listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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