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Photo Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

WGD: GAME 68: DETROIT @ COLOLRADO

As someone who grew up in the 90s it is weird to see the Red Wings and Avalanche go head-to-head as the 27th and 30th ranked teams in the NHL, but here we are. Long gone are the days of Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Nick Lidstrom and Patrick Roy and both teams are in search of new superstars.

The Red Wings are hopeful that they have some future stars in Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, while the Avalanche appear ready to move on from players like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog—players they thought were going to take them back to the promise land.

This used to be the best rivalry in the sport and a March meeting would have had huge implications in the Western Conference Playoff race, but not today. This will be the first of two meetings between Detroit and Colorado this week, as the Avalanche get set to make their final visit to Joe Louis Arena on Saturday.

You don’t think about the Red Wings and Avalanche without thinking about the brawl or the goalie fights, so since tonight’s game might not be exciting, we might as well get our blood going with some throwback footage. Almost 20 years ago today:

For a more in-depth look at the Red Wings and Avalanche rivalry, Kris Draper came out with a phenomenal read in the Player’s Tribune and I encourage you to take a look at it.

As exciting as it is to re-live one of the best Red Wings memories, there is still a hockey game tonight, so let’s take a look at the matchup.

The Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings Lines via DailyFaceoff

Head coach Jeff Blashill scratched Mantha in their win over the Red Wings and because they won he kept him out for a second straight game and then they couldn’t score vs. the Rangers. Well, Mantha will make his return to the lineup tonight, replacing Mitch Callahan. Mantha has the best CorsiFor% Relative to the Red Wings (6.56) among all regulars and leads the team in points per 60 (2.36) and is third in Goals Per 60 (0.96). Yeah, he never should have been scratched. Let’s see if he “competes” tonight.

Robbie Russo will be suiting up for his fifth consecutive game and while he’s still searching for his first point, his underlying numbers are very strong so far. [sample size alert] He has played against four potential playoff teams—Toronto, Boston, Chicago and New York and played very well. He boasts a strong 57.30 CorsiFor% (highest on the team) and a 9.43 CF%RelTM, which means the Red Wings have been significantly better with him on the ice. Most important has been the affect he has had on fellow young defenseman Xavier Ouellet. Away from Russo, Ouellet has a 48.4 CF% at even strength, but that is bumped up to a 57.5 CF% with Russo. Keep in mind, this is only four games, but the results so far have been impressive.

Stats via Puckalytics

The Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Lines via DailyFaceoff

When you look at Duchene, Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie you would think this team wouldn’t be bad. Wrong. Even with a strong rookie season from Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche are by far the worst team in the NHL.

MacKinnon leads the team with 44 points (14G / 30A) and second is Duchene with 36 (16G / 20A)—the puts Duchene on-pace for 44 points (20G / 24A) which will make it one of the worst seasons of his career.

The Avalanche have been buried because of a lack of depth scoring. They have just four players with 30-plus points and not a single player with more than 16 goals. That has been the Red Wings problem as well—they have just five players with 30-plus points and one player with more than 16 goals. In contrast, the NHL’s top team, the Washington Capitals has 10 players with more than 30 points and six players with 16-plus goals including four 20-goal scorers. The gap is wide.

The Avalanche will also have a rookie defensemen in their lineup tonight as Anton Lindholm was called up to make his NHL debut this evening. The 22-year-old was a fifth round pick in 2014 and is not known for his offence. Lindholm, who came over from Sweden this season has just 12 points (2G / 10A) in 59 games with the San Antonio Rampage (AHL). I think he is known as the Swedish Bradley Cooper too.

Between the Pipes

Jimmy Howard vs. Calvin Pickard.

Howard played very well in his return to the crease on Friday, stopping 24 of 26 shots in the 4-2 victory. That was only the second time in Howard’s 16 starts that the Red Wings have scored more than three goals for him. Howard is now 6-7-1 with a 1.96 GAA and .934 SV% this season, including 3-2-0 with a 2.21 GAA and .926 SV% on the road.

With Semyon Varlamov out, Pickard has been the Avs’ No.1 netminder. It has not been a good season for the young netminder, but he has played much better as of late. Pickard will make his fifth straight start after going 2-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .933 SV% in his previous four outings.

How to Watch

Puck drop is at the Pepsi Center in Denver Colorado. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit-Plus and if you can’t watch the game you can listen to it on 97.1 FM The Ticket.

Also, make sure to follow us on Twitter; we’ll have live tweets, GIFS, and all the fun stuff that a topical social media platform has.

  • The Grind Line

    the video of that brawl gave me chills! love how it was just the original announcers with no background music. cannot believe that was 20 yrs ago….i feel so old. Mantha is scoring a hatty tongiht after being healthy scratched.