January 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Damien Brunner (24) receives congratulations from center Pavel Datsyuk (13) after scoring against the Dallas Stars in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Dallas won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Detroit Red Wings vs. Minnesota Wild

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March 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Drew Miller (20) goes for the puck in front of Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding (37) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time this season, the Red Wings will face the defenseman that shunned them this past off-season, Ryan Suter. Don’t be surprised if a few “boos” are heard from angry Wings fans the first time Suter touches the puck (and expect it to taper off just as quickly). The Wings take on the Minnesota Wild tonight at 7:30pm EST.

Mike Babcock split up Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in practice yesterday, stating that they can’t keep doing the same thing if they want to win games. There needs to be a shakeup. Of course, they’ll still be on the first power play unit, which also needs a lot of work…

Projected Line-up

Forwards

Henrik ZetterbergDamien BrunnerJohan Franzen

Pavel DatsyukTodd BertuzziValtteri Filppula

Dan ClearyDarren HelmJustin Abdelkader

Cory EmmertonDrew MillerJordin Tootoo

Defensemen

Niklas Kronwall – Brian Lashoff

Brendan Smith – Kyle Quincey

Kent HuskinsJakub Kindl

Goaltender

Jimmy Howard

The injuries continue to hamper the Red Wings; add Ian White‘s 2-3 weeks off due to a laceration on his leg, and you’ve got Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), Jan Mursak (shoulder), Jonas Gustavsson (groin), and Mikael Samuelsson (groin) all sidelined. Patrick Eaves is a healthy scratch.

While the return of Helm is exciting, fans should keep in mind that he hasn’t played a solid game of hockey since March of 2012. He won’t be that penalty-killing force to be reckoned with, but his natural speed should at least give the Red Wings a boost of energy. And the return of Bertuzzi means another silent enforcer in the ranks as well as an awesome shooter in the shootout, if the game must come to that.

It’s Damien Brunner‘s time to shine. With the shootout-winning goal on Monday, and a nearly-literal last-second goal (3.4 seconds is close enough) to keep the Red Wings from getting shut out on Tuesday evening, it seems as though he’s getting used to NHL play. In the first three games, he’s had beginner’s bad luck with the puck bouncing on him at the worst possible times.

Johan Franzen needs to step up his pace. The guy Steve Yzerman nicknamed the Mule because he carries the load of the team has looked fairly lethargic on the ice. However, he has been doing a decent job getting to the front of the net to

Likewise, Dan Cleary has yet to do anything spectacular. This is the guy who found his home with the Red Wings when they signed him in 2005. And it was two seasons ago that he finally beat his career-best points with 46. However, he was hampered by a nagging knee injury last season. If he could shake

Any and all forwards on the Red Wings need to step up both their offensive game and their back-checking abilities. Datsyuk and Zetterberg can’t be the only two forwards to back-check and help out the defense. With an average blueline (something fans haven’t seen since the 1980s), every player needs to be able to cover their own mistakes and be reliable in the defensive zone.

This is a team that still looks like it doesn’t quite know what to make of itself. The injuries already stacking up certainly do not help anyone. Of course, this team is not a lost effort – far from it, actually – but work still needs to be done.

It’s like the John Mayer lyrics: “I’m in repair. I’m not together, but I’m getting there.” …Well, let’s hope it’s like the John Mayer lyrics.

Prediction: With Suter at a -3 rating with 0 points so far this season, it sounds like he’s poised to have a solid game against the Red Wings. But with many key players returning from injury, the Red Wings should want to prove that they can do just fine without Suter or Zach Parise as part of their ranks. 3-2 Red Wings victory.

What is your prediction for the game?

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