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WGD #66: Three things to watch for against Minnesota

Following a 4-1 loss against New Jersey back on Tuesday, Detroit has now lost three straight games and they’ve allowed exactly four goals in each of those losses. Although, after Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou were traded to Edmonton before Monday’s trade deadline, Detroit’s dressing room was expected to take a major hit regarding their team morale.

So, a poor performance just one day after those moves occurred is certainly understandable. However, there are still 17 games left in the 2019-20 season which gives the Red Wings lots of time to serve as a playoff spoiler. Coming into tonight’s series finale against Minnesota, the Wild sit just three points shy of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. With a victory, Detroit could tie their season series and further diminish Minnesota’s playoff chances.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Patrik Nemeth
PATRIK NEMETH
Alex Biega
ALEX BIEGA
Madison Bowey
MADISON BOWEY
Filip Hronek
FILIP HRONEK
Trevor Daley
TREVOR DALEY
Gustav Lindstrom
GUSTAV LINDSTROM

Coming into tonight’s game, the Red Wings could be without Robby Fabbri, Filip Hronek and Gustav Lindstrom as well. During Wednesday’s practice, both Fabbri and Lindstrom were held out due to injury and Hronek skated by himself, although he did ditch the non-contact jersey. When asked about all three of their statuses, coach Jeff Blashill stated that they were all considered as “questionable” against the Wild.

Based on the skating lines at practice on Wednesday, it would seem that Brendan Perlini will be inserted on the top line in Fabbri’s place. While recent waiver claim Cody Goloubef would assume Lindstrom’s role on Detroit’s third defensive pairing. As for Hronek, he’ll likely sit tonight as Dennis Cholowski was just recalled from the AHL.

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Minnesota Wild

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS
Ryan Suter
RYAN SUTER
Jared Spurgeon
JARED SPURGEON
Jonas Brodin
JONAS BRODIN
Mathew Dumba
MATHEW DUMBA
Brad Hunt
BRAD HUNT
Greg Pateryn
GREG PATERYN

Through Minnesota’s 62 games this season, forward Zach Parise leads their team in goals (21), power-play goals (11) and he sits fourth on the roster in points (37) as well. However, the 35-year-old has produced just one assist over his last six games. Not too mention, the left-handed shooter was nearly traded to the Islanders prior to the trade deadline.

So the Red Wings will still need to be cautious when Parise’s on the ice. But, he likely won’t make any game-changing plays later tonight.

Three Thoughts

1.) Sam Gagner Makes His Debut

Along with a pair of second-round picks (2020 & 2021), the Red Wings acquired depth forward Sam Gagner from the Oilers in exchange for Athanasiou and prospect Ryan Kuffner on Monday. After he missed Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey, the 30-year-old is expected to make his debut with Detroit later tonight. Just as he mentioned after his first team-practice on Wednesday, Gagner can’t wait to play for his new team.

During his time in Edmonton, the right-handed shooter tallied five goals, twelve points along with 69 shots on net through 36 games. While Gagner spent time on Edmonton’s first and third lines throughout this season, he’s likely to be featured alongside Tyler Bertuzzi and Valtteri Filppula on Detroit’s second line. Over his 42 career games against Minnesota, Gagner has scored three goals and 18 points. So, let’s all hope that he can replicate some of that production during his debut.

2.) Dennis Cholowski Returns From Grand Rapids

Since Filip Hronek hasn’t been medically cleared to return to the lineup, the Red Wings have decided to recall Dennis Cholowski from Grand Rapids. Ironically, the 22-year-old played against Minnesota last month and recorded a team-high three blocks when they defeated Detroit 4-2. Now, there’s a high chance for the sophomore defenseman to play in his first NHL game since Feb. 3.

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While there’s a slight possibility for Hronek to suit up, it’s seeming more likely that he’ll miss his fifth straight contest. As a result, Cholowski will likely resume his role on Detroit’s third defensive pairing alongside Goloubef. During his 27 games in the AHL this season, the left-handed shooter has created three goals and twelve points for the Griffins.

3.) Detroit’s Power Play Breaks Out of Slump

Overall, Detroit has been one of the worst teams in the league with the man advantage this season. Through their 65 games, the Red Wings are tied for the worst conversion rate (14.8%) on the power play among all 31 teams in the league. In addition, their special teams unit has converted on just two of their 14 power-play opportunities since Feb. 14, which is tied for the tenth-worst rate (14.3%) during that span.

Despite Detroit’s awful conversion rate, Minnesota has produced the fourth-worst success rate (72.7%) on the penalty kill since Jan. 1. Since they’ve only committed 8:14 PIM/game (16th-worst since Jan. 1), the Red Wings probably won’t receive a lot of power-play opportunities in this matchup. But, their team should be extremely successful whenever they have the man-advantage.

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