Game Preview: Minnesota at Detroit

 

Using the term “Must Win” in regards to the 10th contest out of an 82-game schedule seems melodramatic.  After a four game skid with some mediocre teams and two blowouts, however, it’s where the Detroit Red Wings currently stand.

Tonight’s game against Minnesota is a “Must Win.”

Goal Drought:  Part 1

Losing games is always bad for any hockey team. Losing by wide margins is another.  Detroit has lost their scoring mojo.  In the last four games, they’ve only scored four goals.  By contrast, the team scored 18 goals in their first five. 

Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk and Valterri Filpulla have dried up.  Jiri Hudler, who had a spectacular start, has dropped so much in production that he’s become a healthy scratch.  Even worse, Henrik Zetterberg has yet to show up.  The veteran forward has only scored two goals and an assist in nine games. 

What’s Detroit’s remedy?  Get another Swede.

After dumping Fabian Brunnstrom to Grand Rapids, Ken Holland has called up Gustav Nyquist.  He was a strong contributor for Detroit in the preseason, but was sent to the AHL in favor of Brunnstrom.  With four goals and five assists in nine games for the Griffins, he may be the answer to the Wings’ scoring drought. 

I have to admit, I’m excited to see this kid play in Detroit.  True, Nyquist has only played college hockey in Maine along with a handful of professional games, but he already looks ready for the NHL.  He possesses the speed of Darren Helm and the hands of Datsyuk.  Even Mike Babcock, who can be more critical than an anal Rush Limbaugh, praised his talent:

“I liked him in training camp.  I thought he was an NHL player in training camp. If you go back and read my quotes, I think that’s what I said. And I think he still is. I think he’s a guy who can help our team.” – www.detroitredwings.com

Even better, Nyquist will start tonight on line with Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi.  If he continues where he left off in the preseason, expect this line to work magic.

Goal Drought:  Part 1

Speaking of scoring issues, let’s not forget that Minnesota is currently 30th in the league in goals per game.  With the trades in the off season to add Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi with Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck (still the best name in the NHL), it was assumed that the Wild’s scoring issues have been resolved.  But at an average 1.9 goal per game, there still may be more trades with San Jose.

If Detroit can gain an early lead, this should be an easy win.

 

Wild about Harding (see what I did there?)

I admit it.  I love Josh Harding.  There’s something about his tenacity and skill that I dig.  Sure, he’s only played two games.  But in those games (both against the Wings) he’s averaged 1.45 GAA and a .961 SV%. 

My love for this guy is conflicting and most likely premature.  The season’s still young and Harding is still unproven.  After only accruing nine wins in 2010 and missing all of last year to a nasty ACL and MCL tear in his right knee during the preseason (check it out on YouTube if you want to scream like a little girl), his success level for this year is still a question mark.  If he continues his level of play, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends the season as a starter (and possible Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy candidate).

Final Word

Detroit should end their losing streak tonight.  They’ll have the home crowd and a hot new prospect to help them game a victory. 

 

Tags: Detroit Red Wings Harding Minnesota Minnesota Wild Nyquist Wild

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