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WGD: GAME 53: RED WINGS @ ISLANDERS

The Red Wings are coming off of an unsurprising loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. The Red Wings had the lead for a little bit but the NHL’s hottest team battled back and held onto a 3-2 win.

Detroit enters play having lost four of their last six games (2-3-1) and catch the New York Islanders on the tail-end of a back-to-back. Tonight will be the second of three meetings between these two teams. Detroit up-ended the Islanders 6-3 on December 19th and they will be searching for a similar result in their second trip to Brooklyn.

Detroit sits at 21-23-8 and eight points out of the final Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. Getting to the Playoffs definitely isn’t out of the question yet, but the Red Wings will almost certainly be one of the biggest sellers at the deadline with Ken Holland likely taking calls on players like Mike Green, Gustav Nyquist, Andreas Athanasiou and Petr Mrazek. He will probably get some interest in Tomas Tatar as well but he still has four years left with a $5.3M cap-hit, so that might be a deal that will be left until the offseason.

Dealing players away won’t necessarily make the Red Wings worse either. Losing a player like Green will hurt the blueline no doubt, but defenseman Filip Hronek has had an excellent year with Grand Rapids (AHL) and deserves a look down the stretch. We’ve already seen Joe Hicketts here as well and he’s another blueliner we should see in the final months of the year. Up front, local boy (from Windsor, ON) Matt Puempel leads the Griffins in points with 40 (18G / 22A) in 36 games and could fill-out a top-9 role should the Red Wings move a forward. An infusion of youth and players looking to earn a spot next year could make the Red Wings a better team—look at the Colorado Avalanche who have been exponentially better since trading away Matt Duchene. The only issue with Puempel is that he is not waiver-exempt, so calling him up for the stretch run may not be in the cards. The Red Wings might take on bad, expiring contracts to increase their return in trades as well. That would fill the holes left by their departing players.

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines via DailyFaceoff

The Red Wings are expected to send out the same 18 skaters as Tuesday, but the line configurations are going to look a little different. Tatar is back on the second line with Dylan Larkin and Andreas Atahanasiou, who have a combined one assist in their lat six games. That bumps Tyler Bertuzzi back to the fourth line. That’s a good thing. Larkin and Athanasiou have a 50.40 CF% together but when you add Bertuzzi to that duo it drops to 44.85 CF%. However, with Tatar it isn’t much better. That trio’s CF% sits at 45.54 and they’ve been caved in 73-59 in scoring chances.

Trevor Daley was terrible in the first half of the season, but has played much better since returning from injury a the end of January. He has two goals and 13 shots on goal in his last four games—he’s also eating up 19:49 on a backend that needs someone to step up.

THE ISLANDERS

New York Islanders lines via DailyFaceoff

The Islanders have been one of the best offences in the NHL this season but have been dreadful in their own end. They’ve been on an extended slide as of late too. The Islanders come into Friday having lost four of their last five and sit 3-5-2 in their last 10 games.

They sit third in the NHL with 184 goals for but dead last with 201 goals against for the 10th worst goal differential (minus-17)—Detroit has 136 goals for, 154 against (minus-18).

Despite struggling as of late, including a loss in Buffalo last night, the Islanders have one of the best top-6’s in the NHL. With the likes of John Tavares, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee and super rookie Mathew Barzal, they’re going to get their scoring chances tonight. The key for the Red Wings will be to match that production and have better goaltending—which should be tough, their goalies are among the worst in the NHL.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings and it could be a tryout for his future team in the process. The Islanders should be in the market for a goalie over the next few weeks and no available goaltender has played as well as Mrazek as of late. The 25-year-old has won four of his last six starts with a 1.30 GAA, .958 SV% and two shutouts. He also stopped 34 of 37 shots in the win in Brooklyn in December.

Thomas Greiss is expected to start for the Islanders after Jaroslav Halak went last night. In his last six starts, Greiss has gone 2-4-0 while allowing at least four goals in five of those six games. During that stretch he has posted a 4.50 GAA and .878 SV% while facing an average of 36.8 shots per game.

But hey, it’s not the goalie’s fault because GM Garth Snow blamed their futility on injuries. It’s never his fault! Holland, call this guy and rip him off before he gets fired.

HOW TO WATCH

Puck-drop between the Red Wings and the Islanders is at 7:00 pm at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit-PLUS.

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