Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #71: Three things to watch for against Carolina

Despite already being eliminated from playoff contention, the Red Wings are currently playing some of their best hockey right now. Following a 5-4 shootout victory over Tampa Bay, Detroit has now won back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 10. This was also just the third time this year that the Wings have scored four goals during regulation.

After playing playoff spoiler against the Lightning on Sunday, the Red Wings will have an opportunity to put pressure on the Hurricanes later tonight. Currently, Carolina is in a tight race for one of the two Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference. With just 15 games left for the Hurricanes, there continues to be very little room for error heading down the stretch.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Trevor Daley
Filip Hronek
Patrik Nemeth
Madison Bowey
Jonathan Ericsson
Gustav Lindstrom

Since the NHL isn’t allowing the media to access dressing rooms right now, it’s unclear if the Red Wings will make any lineup changes for tonight’s series finale against the Hurricanes. For the sake of this article, let’s say that Detroit rolls out the same lineup they did back on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

If so, then the Red Wings would be playing with just eleven forwards and seven defensemen for the second straight game. While this strategy may seem unconventional, it appeared to work for Detroit during their previous game. So, we’ll see how it plays out against the playoff-contending Hurricanes.

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Carolina Hurricanes 

Joel Edmundson
Jaccob Slavin
Haydn Fleury
Brady Skjei
Jake Gardiner
Trevor van Riemsdyk

While the Hurricanes are loaded with many talented players, the Red Wings will need to spend the majority of their focus in trying to limit Sebastian Aho from taking over the game. Through 67 games this season, the 22-year-old forward leads his team in goals (36), points (63) and shots on net (203).

In addition, Aho has also dominated Detroit throughout his four seasons in the league. Over his ten career matchups, Aho has scored four goals and ten points against the Red Wings. In fact, he’s tallied three goals and five points through two games against their team this season. While Aho is goalless in five straight games, he could certainly break out of his slump at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday night.

Three Thoughts

1.) More Top Line Dominance

During their first meeting of the season back on Nov. 1, all three of Detroit’s goals came from their top line and we could see similar results during this third and final matchup of the season against Carolina. In particular, the trio of Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi have been virtually unstoppable over their last four games. During that span, Detroit’s overpowering top unit has produced six goals and 18 points.

While the Red Wings are still averaging less than three goals/game (2.50) over their last four contests, their top line could have a major impact in this showdown against the Hurricanes. Since Feb. 1, Carolina has allowed the third-most goals per game (3.44) among all 31 teams in the league. Based on that metric, Detroit’s top line shouldn’t have any issues continuing their dominant performance later tonight.

2.) High Workload for Gustav Lindstrom 

Despite playing with seven defensemen back on Sunday, Gustav Lindstrom received a career-high 21:49 minutes of ice time, including 1:50 minutes of TOI during the powerplay. While the 21-year-old rookie didn’t record any points against the Lightning, he did produce a pair of key blocks while also inducing a turnover as well.

While Lindstrom has tallied just one assist over his 15 games with Detroit this season, the right-handed defenseman has started to display some improvements over the last five games, as he’s recorded seven blocks and five hits. As a result, he’s been rewarded with additional ice time from coach Jeff Blashill. Based on Lindstrom’s recent success, he’ll likely receive a significant amount of ice time against the Hurricanes.

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3.) Critical Opening Period

If you’re watching tonight’s game, make sure to get to your devices before puck drop. During each of their previous meetings earlier this season, the team who scored first, which was Carolina in both games, ultimately won the outcome of the game. So far this season, the Hurricanes are tied for the sixth-most wins (26) when scoring first and the sixth-most wins (19) when leading after the first period as well.

Since Detroit has averaged the fewest goals per game (2.00) and they’ve scored the fewest number of goals in the first period (43) this season, scoring before Carolina may prove to be difficult. However, the Red Wings have scored the opening goal in each of their last four games. So, accomplishing that feat once again could allow them to extend their current winning streak to three games.