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WGD: GAME 42: BYE BYE WEEK

The Red Wings’ last game before their bye week was against the NHL’s top team [Tampa Bay Lightning] and they dropped that game 5-2 to snap a four-game winning streak.

This afternoon our local hockey club will be back in action as they travel to Pittsburgh to start a brief two-game trip that will end in Chicago tomorrow. How exciting would this trip be if it was 2009? Instead it is 2018 and the trip is essentially to keep the Red Wings season alive.

As it stands now, the Red Wings are 17-17-7 (41 points) and they sit fifth in the Atlantic Division—12 points out of third (with four games in-hand). If this team is going to slide back into the playoffs it will be in the Wild Card, where they sit seven points back (with three games in-hand) of the Carolina Hurricanes. However to get there, they will need to hop teams like the Penguins, who have had some of the worst luck we’ve seen in recent years and the New York Islanders, who possess one of the best offences in the league and are a league-average goalie away from being a real force.

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It won’t be an easy road for the Red Wings, but they also look like they’re too good to be a true contender for the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes…unfortunately. The Red Wings sit one point ahead of where they were last year and look like obvious sellers as we approach the trade deadline—so at the very least enjoy the last month or so of seeing All-Star Mike Green in a Red Wings uniform.

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines via DailyFaceoff

If you missed Cameron Kuom’s mid-season Player Grades, you should take a minute to do some pre-game reading.

Red Wings Mid-Season Player Grades

The Red Wings are not expected to make any changes from their pre-bye week games, which means the Tomas TatarDylan LarkinAndreas Athanasiou line will remain intact. While it’s exciting to seee how well Athanasiou has been playing lately, these three as a unit have struggled in their own end—as you might imagine. In 102:30 TOI at 5v5 together they carry an ugly 47.21 CorsiFor% , but have recorded an impressive 57 scoring chances and 23 high-danger scoring chances for in that time. However, the chances against are nearly identical. In contrast, the numbers are much better with Anthony Mantha on that line instead of Athansiou and more importantly they are extremely impressive with Athanasiou-Larkin-Mantha as a line—but that continues to be a pipe dream.

David Booth had some travel issues getting back to Detroit after the break, so he missed practice on Friday but is expected to be available this afternoon. There’s no word whether he will play as a 12th forward or if Jeff Blashill will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

THE PENGUINS

Pittsburgh Penguins lines via DailyFaceoff

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Brian Dumoulin
BRIAN DUMOULIN
Kris Letang
KRIS LETANG
Olli Maatta
OLLI MAATTA
Justin Schultz
JUSTIN SCHULTZ
Matt Hunwick
MATT HUNWICK
Jamie Oleksiak
JAMIE OLEKSIAK

There might be a few names in this lineup that you aren’t accustom to seeing, starting with Daniel Sprong. If you aren’t familiar with Sprong, he was a second-round pick (No.46 overall) in 2015 and has appeared in the last five games with the Penguins. Sprong had 28 points (18G / 10A) in 29 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) when he was called up and the trio of Sprong-Sidney CrosbyDominik Simon has been dominant for the Penguins. Their time together is very limited, but in just three games as a line they carry an absurd 73.81 CorsiFor%,they have dominated scoring chances 20-to-5 and have outscored their opposition 4-to-1. The Red Wings will have to slow this speedy line down, but Detroit has a lot of speed up and down the lineup to counter with.

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Jamie Oleksiak is not a new name, but he’s relatively new to the Penguins. The 6-foot-7, 250 lbs. defensemen was acquired from the Dallas Stars a few weeks ago and has picked up two goals in his first nine games with the Penguins—however he really isn’t known for his offense, having picked up just 24 points (9G / 15A) in 149 career NHL games.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Jimmy Howard told reporters on Friday that he is ready to go after missing the last game before the bye week with a lower-body ailment. Howard is expected to start and comes in having won his last four games with an impressive 1.47 GAA and .960 SV%. One of those wins was against these very Penguins—he stopped 37 of 38 shots in the Red Wings 4-1 win on New Year’s Eve.

Matt Murray is back at home in Ontario to deal with a family issue (hopefully everything is OK there) so Tristan Jarry will get the nod for the Penguins. Jarry was pulled in his last start after allowing five goals on 19 shots and while he’s been solid most of the season, he is just 4-2-0 with a 3.16 GAA and .893 SV% on home-ice, so the Red Wings catch a bit of a break this afternoon.

HOW TO WATCH

Puck-drop between the Red Wings and Penguins is at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. It can be seen in the United States on Fox Sports Detroit and the NHL Network or on SportsNet in Canada.

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