I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas break, but it’s time to get back to watching hockey and hopefully the break served the Red Wings well and they come back rejuvenated and ready to make a run.
The Red Wings ended the pre-Christmas schedule with a shootout win over the Panthers and sit at .500 (15-15-4), which has them six points out of third in the Atlantic Division and 10 points back of the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Wild Card spot.
Tonight will be the second of four meetings between the Red Wings and Sabres. Detroit took the first meeting 2-1 in a shootout, but that was before Jack Eichel was back in the lineup. Since Eichel returned, the Sabres are 5-4-3 while averaging 2.67 goals for and 3.17 goals against per game.
This is a great matchup for the Red Wings to return to, because they have had a ton of success against the Sabres in recent years. Over the last three years the Red Wings have gone 12-1-1 in their last 14 games against Buffalo. Let’s see how they match-up heading into tonight’s tilt.
|Detroit Red Wings||Buffalo Sabres|
|Goals For||2.29 GF/PG (t-26th)||2.12 GF/PG (t-28th)|
|Goals Against||2.82 GA/PG (19th)||2.61 GA/PG (t-11th)|
|Power Play||11.9% (30th)||22.3% (4th)|
|Penalty Kill||81.9% (15th)||74.3% (30th)|
|Corsi||47.83 (23rd)||48.72 (21st)|
|Last 10||4-5-1 (t-21st)||3-4-3 (26th)|
THE RED WINGS
General Manager Ken Holland was asked about their injured players on Monday and he said that Mike Green (upper-body), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Alexey Marchenko (shoulder) will all miss this week, but it looks like Brendan Smith will return to the lineup tonight. Ryan Sproul will likely be scratched in favour of Smith, who will also take his spot on the second power play unit.
With Green and Marchenko all sidelined, the Red Wings will continue to lean heavily on Xavier Ouellet and Jonathan Ericsson, who played 24:32 and 23:40 TOI respectively on Friday. Ouellet has quietly had a nice season and has been a bright spot in what has otherwise been a difficult year for the Red Wings. Ouellet is one of just four Red Wings with a positive Corsi rating and his 3.58 Corsi relative to his team is fourth best on the team.
Anthony Mantha scored for a second straight game vs. the Panthers, giving him six goals and five assists (11 points) in 19 games. Mantha is scoring 1.19 goals per 60 minutes, which ranks 32nd in the NHL, but trails Andreas Athanasiou for the team-lead. Athanasiou is 11th in the NHL with 1.47 goals per 60, but is averaging just 12:41 TOI/GM over the last few weeks. With the season seemingly heading in the wrong direction, it might be in their best interest to get AA a little more ice-time.
The Sabres will be without Ryan O’Reilly after he underwent and appendectomy over the break. With O’Reilly out, Matt Moulson will move up the lineup and Zemgus Girgensons will play a bigger role up front. O’Reilly is fourth on the Sabres with 18 points and is tied for third with seven goals. According to Dom Luszczyszyn’s Game Score model, O’Reilly has been their best player this season, posting a 0.94 Game Score,
On the blueline, Rasmus Ristolainen had a slow start but has been on fire since Eichel returned to the lineup. Coincidence? Ristolainen is the Sabres’ leading point-getter with 23 points (3G / 20A) in 33 games. Going back to Game Score, Ristolainen has been their best defenseman by far and the rest of the group has been below average; to say the least.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Petr Mrazek vs. Robin Lehner.
Jared Coreau started the Red Wings’ final game before the break, but they’ll come back to Mrazek tonight vs. the Sabres. Mrazek has had a tough season and December has been especially difficult. Mrazek is 3-2-1 wth a 3.42 GAA and .885 SV% this month and is 5-4-2 with a 2.98 GAA and .896 SV% on home-ice this season.
Lehner has had a good season so far and hasn’t been bit by the injury bug, which has been an issue for him over the years. Lehner faces an abundance of shots, seeing 30.4 shots per game. The 25-year-old has gone 4-4-3 with a 2.54 GAA and .920 SV% on the road this season and played well in the first meeting between these two squads—he turned aside 23 of 24 shots in the 2-1 shootout loss.
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 you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.
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