Before I get into anything hockey related, I would like to extend my condolences to Red Wings’ play-by-play announcer Ken Daniels and his family, who lost their 23-year-old son on Thursday.
After a disastrous first period in Winnipeg, the Red Wings settled in and battled back for a 4-3 shootout win before returning to Detroit.
With Tuesday’s win, the Red Wings have now gone 5-1-2 in their last eight games, to give them 12 of a possible 16 points. Even better news for the Red Wings, is that the Tampa Bay Lightning are struggling mightily, having lost six of their last seven and the Montreal Canadiens lost both of their top two centres for an extended period of time, so the door is open for the Red Wings to climb the Atlantic Division standings.
While other teams in the division are losing players to injury, the Red Wings are finally getting some back. Tonight will mark the return of Jimmy Howard, Andreas Athanasiou and Alexey Marchenko. Finally, the best news of all is that the Red Wings return home for a five-game home stand at the Joe with a pivotal 10 points on the line. It won’t be an easy five games though. They draw the Blue Jackets tonight, followed by the Flyers, Coyotes, Kings and Ducks. Those five teams have a combined 65-48-19 record (.564 P%) and two of them (CBJ + PHI) rank in the top five in goals this season.
Without focussing too much on the other teams, let’s start with game one and how the Red Wings and Blue Jackets match-up for this one.
|Detroit Red Wings||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Goals For||2.41 GF/PG (t-21st)||3.17 GF/PG (4th)|
|Goals Against||2.67 GA/PG (15th)||2.17 GA/PG (3rd)|
|Power-Play||14.6% (23rd)||24.6% (1st)|
|Penalty-Kill||84.1% (10th)||81.3% (17th)|
|Corsi%||26.54 CF% (27th)||59.94 CF% (13th)|
THE RED WINGS
As I mentioned, Athanasiou will be back in the lineup tonight and he will start on a line with Steve Ott and Tomas Jurco. Not really the ideal spot for Athanasiou, but it is not a surprising move at all. Marchenko will also draw back in, but head coach Jeff Blashill would not say who comes out. It would probably make sense if he replaced Brian Lashoff, but it seems more likely that Xavier Oullet will come out, because… Red Wings.
#RedWings Blashill said there were some question marks coming out of Jets game so lineup decisions will be made after warmups.
— Dana Wakiji (@Dwakiji) December 9, 2016
Marchenko has played the majority of his 5v5 minutes with Jonathan Ericsson. The pair carries a 48.6 CF%, which is a huge step up from the 38.41 CF% Marchenko has with any other partner.
Athanasiou gets back into the lineup leading the Red Wings in Goals per60 (1.82) and second in Points per60 (2.28)—trailing only Thomas Vanek. The infusion of speed will be huge for the Red Wings and don’t be surprised if he moves his way back up the lineup.
Anthony Mantha made a number of mistakes against Winnipeg, but the good continues to outweigh the bad in a big way. His 10.11 CF% relative to the team leads the Red Wings—for those of you who don’t know what that means, Detroit is much better when Mantha is on the ice versus when he is not. On the other end of the spectrum is Drew Miller, who will thankfully come out of the lineup tonight.
Dylan Larkin will start the game with Frans Nielsen and he looked significantly better in Winnipeg and appears to have received the wake-up call from Blashill.
Stats via puckaltyics.com
THE BLUE JACKETS
From one great University of Michigan hockey player to the next, the Blue Jackets appear to have hit a home-run with Zach Werenskii, a former teammate of Larkin’s. Werenski is currently tied for eighth among defenseman with 17 points (6G / 11A) and is shooting at an elite rate for a rookie defenseman. So far, he has fired 71 shots (2.96 S/PG), which is tied with Kris Letang for seventh among blueliners. Werenski isn’t the only great D-man in Columbus either. Seth Jones has had a strong start to there season as well, albeit less offensive.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) December 9, 2016
Up front, the Blue Jackets scoring is extremely balanced. They have four players over 20 points—Cam Atkinson (23), Nick Foligno, Alex Wennberg (22) and Brandon Saad (21). They also have five players with at least seven goals—Foligno, Sam Gagner (10), Atkinson (8), Saad and Josh Anderson (7). To put that in perspective, the Red Wings have one player with 20 points (Zetterberg) and one player with seven-plus goals (Larkin).
The Blue Jackets don’t hold morning skates, but they recalled Oliver Bjorstrand on an emergency basis this afternoon, which suggests someone is sick or hurt and Bjorkstrand may need to draw into the lineup.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Petr Mrazek vs. Sergei Bobrovsky.
Mrazek allowed three goals on 34 shots in the Red Wings win in Winnipeg and has won two in a row and four his last six with a 2.44 GAA and .913 SV%. Mrazek is starting to find his game and he will need to continue to play well or he will find himself losing playing time to Howard again. Mrazek stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win in his only start vs. Columbus last year.
Bobrovsky had a tough 2015-16 season, but has been sensational so far this year. Bobrovsky has won three in a row and four of his last five with a 1.58 GAA and .931 SV%. He is red-hot and is currently tied or second in the NHL in wins (14), eighth in GAA (2.03) and 10th in SV% (.930). In his career vs. the Red Wings, Bob is 6-4-1 with a 2.08 GAA, .934 SV% and two shutouts.
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-plus or you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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