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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #31: Three things to watch for against Pittsburgh

Following their 4-1 loss against the Islanders back on Monday, Detroit has now lost ten straight games and is tied for their third-longest losing streak in franchise history. Detroit has also continued to struggle with creating offensive success. The Red Wings have now failed to score more than two goals in six straight games.

Entering tonight’s game, the Red Wings are set to face off against the 16-9-4 Penguins before heading to Winnipeg for a home and home beginning on Tuesday. Unlucky for Detroit, the Penguins also enter this game as one of the best scoring teams in the league. Currently, Pittsburgh owns the sixth-highest goals per game rate (3.34) in the league. Given Detroit’s issues with surrendering high amounts of goals this season, they’ll likely be in tough against Pittsburgh.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Patrik Nemeth
PATRIK NEMETH
Filip Hronek
FILIP HRONEK
Dennis Cholowski
DENNIS CHOLOWSKI
Mike Green
MIKE GREEN
Alex Biega
ALEX BIEGA
Dylan McIlrath
DYLAN MCILRATH

Still without exciting young player Anthony Mantha, the Red Wings have continued to struggle offensively. While fellow forward Robby Fabbri has been a respectable fill-in, he’s just not capable of replicating Mantha’s production. Even with highly touted Filip Zadina positioned on the first power-play unit, Detroit hasn’t been able to break out of their scoring slump.

Given that there’s still no timetable for Mantha’s return, the Red Wings will be forced to continue to battle through these offensive woes. Until someone steps up, Detroit’s losing streak is only going to continue.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
John Marino
JOHN MARINO
Kris Letang
KRIS LETANG
Marcus Pettersson
MARCUS PETTERSSON
Justin Schultz
JUSTIN SCHULTZ
Juuso Riikola
JUUSO RIIKOLA
Zach Trotman
ZACH TROTMAN

The Penguins have been without arguably the best player in the world and haven’t lost a beat. Since Sidney Crosby’s departure, Pittsburgh has won six of their last 12 games with veteran leader Evgeni Malkin carrying his team. The Russian forward has generated a team-leading 17 points over their last 12 games.

Traditionally, Malkin usually increases his level of play when Crosby is out of the lineup. Given his age, this time was thought to be a different story. However, the 33-year-old is proving that he’s still capable of performing at the highest level.

Three Thoughts

1.) Continuing Impressive Play from Dylan Larkin

Over Detroit’s last three games, center Dylan Larkin has easily been their best player on the ice. While his success may not exactly show up in the scoring department, the 23-year-old has been creating a significant amount of scoring chances. During these previous three games, Larkin has tallied a goal and an assist along with a combined 15 shots on net.

Detroit has generated just four goals over the last three games, with Larkin being involved in two of those four goals. The Penguins have also surrendered a total of ten goals over their previous three games. So, this game should provide Larkin with another great opportunity to continue his recent hot stretch.

2.) Skating with Their Heads Up

So far this season, the Red Wings haven’t exactly been one of the most physical teams in the league. Entering tonight’s game, Detroit has generated the 16th-most hits (608) throughout the entire league. As for Pittsburgh, their team has produced the most hits (860) of any team this season.

Specifically, the Red Wings will need to be aware of when the Penguins’ third line steps out on the ice. Forwards Brandon Tanev and Zach Aston-Reese currently lead their team in hits and have combined to create 22.3% of their total hits as well. Meaning, Detroit will need to increase their level of physicality tonight against Pittsburgh.

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3.) Furry of Goals During 2nd Period

Along with being one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, the Penguins have also performed as one of the best producing teams during the second period as well. Coming into this game, Pittsburgh has scored the second-most goals during the middle period (37).

The Red Wings have also allowed the most goals of any team during the second period (48) so far this season. So, this likely means that this game could get out of hand before the third period. If Detroit struggles defensively, then they could face a similar situation to their previous game against New York, where they faced a 3-1 deficit heading into the final frame.