The Detroit Red Wings are on fire. Plain and simple. Detroit has ripped off six straight wins and sit at 6-2-0 through the first 16 days of the NHL season. There is a lot of season left to play, but a winning streak of this length is huge if it happens in October or in March.
Tonight the Red Wings will go for their seventh straight win against a Boston Bruins team that is missing a few key pieces. Detroit has struggled against Boston in recent years. Over the last two seasons, the Red Wings are 2-5-2 while averaging 2.44 goals for and 3.56 goals against in nine games vs. the Bruins.
This is a new Red Wings team though and they are red-hot, so let’s break down the lineups and potential goaltending battle.
THE RED WINGS
MORNING SKATE UPDATE: Thomas Vanek (lower-body) did not take part in the morning skate, so he is expected to sit out for the second straight game. The Red Wings tweaked their lines a little, flipping Justin Abdelkader and Riley Sheahan on the second and third line.
The Red Wings got Justin Abdelkader back, but Thomas Vanek didn’t play because of a lower-body injury. It’s unclear when Vanek suffered the injury or how serious the injury is, so his status for tonight’s game remains up in the air. Should Vanek be able to play, expect Drew Miller or Steve Ott to serve as a healthy scratch and for Abdelkader to drop to the fourth line.
Darren Helm picked up another assist on Thursday, to give him seven points (4G / 3A) in eight games, but what is most impressive is how good that third line has been defensively. Despite giving up more shot attempts than they’re taking Vanek hasn’t been on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal in seven games, while Helm, Gustav Nyquist (who is now on the top line) and Andreas Athanasiou (now on that third line) have only given up one. It’s early still, but Helm and Vanek are both tied for second in the NHL with a 7.08 goals for per 60 minutes (GF60)—now that’s secondary scoring.
The blueline is expected to remain the same as it has been in the last four games. Mike Green hasn’t recorded a point in his last three contests, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. Ryan Sproul is expected to play in his fifth consecutive game and he has fit in well. Sproul has two assists and 10 shots on goal so far, adding a nice boost of offensive-upside on the back-end.
These Bruins’ lines are an absolute guess. Their forward lines will be all mixed up because David Pastrnak has been suspended for the next two games, so Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will have a new winger this evening. The Bruins will also be without power-forward David Backes, who underwent an elbow procedure at the start of the week.
Missing two of their top-6 forwards is great news for the Red Wings, but it still won’t be easy to slow Bergeron and Marchand down. Following an early-season injury, Bergeron has just one goal in four game so far, while Marchand has 10 points (3G / 7A), but five of them came in the season opener.
The Bruins are similar to the Red Wings. They have strong forwards, great goaltending but a weak blueline. Zdeno Chara is still the anchor on the back-end, but his advancing age is slowing him down, similar to Niklas Kronwall. Torey Krug is the offensive-minded blueliner of the bunch and rookie Brandon Carlo has been thrust into first-pairing minutes and has answered the bell.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
MORNING SKATE UPDATE: Jimmy Howard will get the nod for the Red Wings, which will leave Petr Mrazek for Sunday’s game vs. Florida. Howard is coming off of a shutout vs. the Sharks last Saturday and has stopped 62 of 63 shots (.984 SV%) this season.
The Red Wings have a back-to-back that starts tonight, so Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard will likely split the next two games. Expect to see Mrazek tonight. Mrazek has won four straight starts while posting an impressive 1.71 GAA and .945 SV%. As good as the Red Wings’ have looked, it has been the goaltending that has led to the six-straight wins.
For the Bruins, it remains unclear who will start. Tuukka Rask has missed the last three games, but he will travel to Detroit and could start tonight. If Rask can’t go, it will be either Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban, because their backup Anton Khudobin is also injured. With all that said, it looks as if it will be Rask and he comes in at 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .947 SV%.
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:00 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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