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WGD: GAME 37: RANGERS @ RED WINGS

The last time these two teams faced each other was on November 24th at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers won 2-1 in overtime, despite being outshot 41-31. It was the third straight loss for the Red Wings in what would eventually turn into a seven game losing streak. The Wings, in the midst of another losing streak, this one lasting three games and dating back to November 20th, are looking to snap it with a win.

As they fall deeper into the basement of the Eastern Conference and the league, their desperation for a win grows. With every loss, their chance to crawl back into a playoff spot decreases. The Rangers, for their part, are holding down the first Wild Card spot, but they’ve got the Islanders and Hurricanes on their heels. It’s that time of year where we start to pay attention to the standings and this could end up being a crucial game for both teams.

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines via DailyFaceoff.

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Well isn’t that an unusual sight on the first line! After a solid showing in Detroit’s game against Boston on Wednesday where he recorded his first NHL point, Tyler Bertuzzi has been promoted to the first line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. “[Bertuzzi] can be a good piece to a puzzle and I’m hoping he can be a good piece on that line,” Jeff Blashill said to the Detroit Free Press. This means a demotion for Anthony Mantha, who now finds himself on a second line with Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar. Bertuzzi has also taken Mantha’s spot on the second powerplay unit. This may be a sleight to Mantha, but I personally like that second line. I think he plays better with Larkin than anyone else on the team. Besides, Mantha’s actually questionable tonight with a “nagging injury”.
The bottom six remain intact as do the D-corps, with Luke Witkowski and Xavier Ouellet serving as the healthy scratches.

THE RANGERS

Mats Zuccarello is the focal point of the Rangers top line as he leads the team in points this season with 29 (8G, 21A). He’ll have the support of Mika Zibanejad and the veteran Rick Nash who add a combined 39 points. On the back end, the Wings will be facing their old teammate Brendan Smith on the second pairing with Kevin Shattenkirk.
Kris Kreider is out of the lineup with blood clots. It’s a scary condition that we’ve seen more and more athletes go through as of late. Generally, players miss 6-8 weeks with this kind of injury, though the team has yet to announce a timeline for Kreider’s return.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Jimmy Howard vs. Henrik Lundqvist
This is the same match-up that we got the last time these two teams played against each other, so it should be a rollercoaster of a game. In the last match-up, Lundqvist turned away 40 of 41 Red Wings shots and Howard turned away 29 of the Rangers 31 shots.
Howie’s record as of late hasn’t been great. In his last five games, he’s only recorded one win, posting a 0.919 save percentage. He’s had very streaky moments this season, but he’s generally what’s keeping the Red Wings in so many games. Unfortunately, he can’t score goals too.
Lundqvist, on the other hand, has gone 3-1-1 in his last five. He’s got a .921 save percentage so far this year, but hasn’t played since December 23rd. There will certainly be some rust to shake off there that hopefully the Red Wings can take advantage of.

HOW TO WATCH

Puck drop from Little Caesar Arena is at 7:30 P.M. ET and you can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit or MSG.
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