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Matchup: Minnesota Wild vs. Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, MI
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Television: National: NBC Sports Network
The Detroit Red Wings (14-10-5, 33 points, 7th place Western Conference) return home to the friendly confines of Joe Louis arena tonight after a very successful west coast road trip which saw them go 2-1-0 and take 4 of a possible 6 points. They return home to take on the Minnesota Wild (16-10-2, 34 points, 3rd place Western Conference) who currently sit atop the Northwest Division thanks to the tiebreaker with the Vancouver Canucks. The Wild can also thank the Red Wings for their current rank, due to the Red Wings latest victory over the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 last Saturday night.
The Red Wings looked impressive once again against the Canucks this season and bounced back extremely well after giving up a goal in the first six seconds of the game. The Wings answered with five unanswered goals and held on to secure the victory, their second in a row and the second road win in a row. The most noticeable aspect of the Red Wings game over the past three games is the powerplay. They have scored a road powerplay goal in the past three games after going the entire first half of the season failing to do so. The Red Wings hope that powerplay success carries over to home, but Minnesota is an extremely good penalty killing team. They currently have the NHL’s fifth best penalty kill at an 85.9% success rate. Despite the success on the powerplay in the past three games, the Red Wings are still struggling overall and sit at 22nd overall in the league with a 15.8% success rate. Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Red Wings are 2-2-1 in their past five overall going even in goals with opposing teams at 12-12. If the Red Wings win tonight, they will take the season series from the Wild 2-1.
The Wild come into this game tonight as winners of three in a row, and winners of 4 out of their past 5 games. Over their three game win streak, the Wild have outscored their opponents 14-7 and have earned goaltender Niklas Backstrom a victory in each game. For the season, Backstrom is now 14-7-1 overall. The Wild will continue to ride their hot goaltender as he tries for his fourth victory in a row tonight. Since he gave up 5 goals in a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on March 5th, Backstrom has gone 5-1-0 while giving up only 13 goals in that span. Despite sitting atop the Northwest Division and in a good position to currently make the playoffs, the Wild still only rank towards the middle of the pack in powerplay success, sitting at 18th overall with a 17.2% success rate. They will look to take advantage of the Red Wings poor penalty killing this season which ranks towards the middle of the pack at 18th with an 80.2% success rate. The penalty kill has been better for the Red Wings the past few games, so this could be an interesting matchup of special teams.
In two meetings this season, the Red Wings and the Wild have split a pair of games with the Red Wings taking the first meeting 5-3 on January 25th and Minnesota taking the second 3-2 on February 17th. In the last meeting between the two clubs, the Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but failed to add any more and gave up three unanswered goals in the third period to drop the game. The game was Red Wings rookie Petr Mrazek‘s second career start and his first career loss. Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard picked up the victory in the first meeting between the two teams.
The Red Wings will once again call on Jimmy Howard after three off days gave him ample time to rest as they try for their third victory in a row. Howard earned the victory in his only other meeting with the Wild this season at the very beginning of the season. The playoff standings shuffling will continue tonight with a Red Wings win. A victory tonight will put the Red Wings back in sole possession of 5th place in the Western Conference with 19 games to play. This is now the home stretch, and the Red Wings will need to play solid hockey on a nightly basis to try and gain as many points as possible especially when playing against playoff contending clubs. Patrick Eaves will be out tonight with a sore jaw after getting hit in the face with a puck in practice. Taking his place will be Gustav Nyquist who was called up earlier today.
Players To Watch:
- Pavel Datsyuk has once again started to collect points on a nightly basis and has 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) in his past four games with 3 coming on Saturday night alone. This season Datsyuk has 5 points (2 goals, 3assists) in the two games against the Wild and has 28 points (9 goals, 19 assists) in 38 career games against the Wild.
- Henrik Zetterberg hopes to have found his scoring touch once again when he scored 2 goals against Vancouver Saturday night, his first in 9 games. Zetterberg has recorded four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in the two games against the Wild this season and will look to extend his points streak against them this season to three games.
- Zach Parise was one of the big names the Red Wings were hoping to land this past off season but he instead decided to go to Minnesota where he currently leads the team in goals with 11. In the two meetings this season with the Red Wings, Parise has 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist). He will likely hear boo’s again from the Red Wings faithful tonight along with the guy I’m going to highlight next.
- Ryan Suter was the other prized free agent the Red Wings had their sights set on this off season to replace the retiring Lidstrom. He chose to join his friend Parise in Minnesota and has done well in his first season there leading the team in assists (21) and points (23). Suter has been a long time foe of the Red Wings and has posted 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists) in 49 career games. The boo birds should be out in full force for him as well tonight.
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