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WGD: GAME 20: RED WINGS VS. SABRES

Holy shit, that was fun wasn’t it? The Red Wings come into Friday’s contest on the heels of a fight and goal-filled 8-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

The Red Wings pounced on the Flames early and often and chased backup goalie Eddie Lack before he knew what hit him. If that didn’t get the Little Caesars Arena crowd in a frenzy then how about an old school donnybrook? Luke Witkowski pounded Brett Kulak and then initiated a brawl after being “speared” by Matthew Tkachuk as he left the ice. If you live under a rock and missed it or you just want to re-watch it then here we go!

Even good guy, Jimmy Howard, who was feisty all evening got into it. It takes us back to the days of the Red Wings vs. Avalanche rivalry where it seemed like there was a brawl every time they met. Unfortunately that was the final meeting of the season between the Red Wings and Flames.

The Red Wings will look to avoid a letdown performance tonight with the Buffalo Sabres in town. The first meeting between Detroit and Buffalo ended with the Red Wings getting shutout 1-0. Since then the Red Wings have gone 5-3-1 while averaging 3.33 goals for per game.

Let’s see how these two squads match-up:

Record 9-8-2 (4th in ATL) 5-9-4 (8th in ATL)
Goals For 2.89 GF/PG (t-16th) 2.44 GF/PG (30th)
Goals Against 2.74 GA/PG (t-9th) 3.56 GA/PG (t-29th)
Power Play 23.7% (t-5th) 16.7% (23rd)
Penalty Kill 84.3% (t-7th) 81.1% (15th)
CorsiFor% 49.25 CF% (19th) 47.04 CF% (27th)

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines via DailyFaceoff

The Red Wings have a couple of question marks tonight. Trevor Daley and Darren Helm will be game-time decisions. Brian Lashoff was recalled from Grand Rapids (AHL) on Thursday and he will fill in for Daley if he is unable to go. However it sounds like if Daley and Helm are both able to play, Lashoff will dress as a seventh defenseman and take David Booth’s spot.Arguably the best part about Wednesday’s win was that it was the “kids” doing all of the damage. Anthony Mantha picked up two goals and one assist—he is now tied for ninth in the NHL in goals (10) and tied for 21st in points (19). Dylan Larkin had a three-point night of his own (1G / 2A) and he is one point behind Mantha with 18 (3G / 15A) in 19 games. Finally, Andreas Athanasiou had two goals and one assist, giving him six points (4G / 2A) in nine games since ending his contract holdout.Quietly, one of their veteran forwards has started to turn things around as well. Frans Nielsen, who had an ice cold start to the season—two goals in his first 10 games—has now picked up four goals and three assists (seven points) in his last nine games.

THE SABRES

Buffalo Sabrbes lines via DailyFaceoff

Early in the season the Sabres made a conscious effort to balance out their top-9 by having Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart each centring their own line. Recently they scrapped that idea, putting Reinhart on the win with Eichel and Evander Kane and the trio has enjoyed success so far. Kane has had a strong start to the year, picking up 18 points (10G / 8A) in 18 games and Eichel is just behind him with 16 (5G / 11A). Reinhart will look to put a slow start behind him after picking up three points (1G / 2A) in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The Red Wings catch a break tonight with Rasmus Ristolainen out and he is one of many injured Sabres defensemen—Zach Bogosian, Taylor Fedun and Matt Tennyson are also out.

Kyle Criscuolo, 25, who won a Calder Cup with the Grand Rapids Griffins last year will make his NHL debut against the Red Wings tonight. The American-born forward had 11 points (5G / 6AA) in 14 games with Rochester (AHL) before getting called-up.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Jimmy Howard vs. Robin Lehner.

To no one’s surprise, Howard is back in the cage for the Red Wings, coming off of a 26-save performance in Wednesday’s victory. Howard has been great recently, going 4-1-1 wth a 1.96 GAA and .939 SV% in his last six starts. I wrote in this morning’s WN Roundtable that Howard has been the biggest surprise for me so far this season because it was difficult to expect him to replicate what he was able to do last season, and so far he has.

Lehner gets the call for Buffalo and he comes in having allowed five goals on 45 shots in Tuesday’s overtime loss. Lehner has been really good on home-ice, but has struggled on the road—posting a 4.61 GAA and .858 SV% en route to a 2-4-1 road record so far. He stopped all 32 shots that he faced in the shutout victory over Detroit in October.

HOW TO WATCH

Puck-drop between the Red Wings and Sabres is at 7:30p.m. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Detroit-PLUS in America and SportsNet360 in Canada

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