After finally starting to look like the hockey team we all know and love, the Detroit Red Wings have come back down to Earth, losing two games in a row and allowing nine goals against in the process. At 6:00 tonight they will look to reverse this slump against the Minnesota Wild, who have also lost their past two games.
Friday’s loss against the Anaheim Ducks was ugly, especially allowing two goals in 48 seconds during the third period, but it’s important to note that an entire powerplay line – Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, and Gustav Nyquist – belonged to the Griffins no more than five games ago. It’s also important to remember the absences of Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Todd Bertuzzi (Detroit’s entire first line last year) among the forward corps.
The sad thing is, none of these players look to be returning anytime soon, with the possible exception of Datsyuk, who will be a game time decision. Franzen was recently placed on injured reserve with a hip flexor injury, and Bertuzzi looks to be out long term with a back issue. Darren Helm, Carlo Colaiacovo. and Brendan Smith are all still out for the time being as well. One bright spot is the return of Mikael Samuelsson, who only played the first two games of the season before falling to injury.
Minnesota comes into this tilt fresh off of a loss to Colorado, one of the Western Conference’s weaker teams, so they’ll be looking to rebound just as much as the Wings will. Their first line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Dany Heatley is as dangerous as any in the league, and Ryan Suter has returned to form as an elite blueliner in the league. The Wild’s goaltending tandem of Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding is hard to stop; this game will be far from an easy task for the hometown boys.
Forwards – with Datsyuk:
Forwards – without Datsyuk (yes, it’s different enough to bear explanation):
Daniel Cleary – Valtteri Filppula – Mikael Samuelsson
Mrazek will get his second NHL start tonight against the Wild. He performed admirably in his first start, stopping 26 of 27
shots and leading the Wings to a 5-1 victory over the hated St. Louis Blues.
Jordin Tootoo needs to regain the ferocity he showed at the beginning of the season. Look for him to regain some forecheck pressure and drop the gloves *at least* once tonight.
Tomas Tatar has shown that he belongs in the NHL in both an energy and a skill role; Babcock will continue to utilize him as a checking forward and on the powerplay, hopefully over Samuelsson and his almost-scary resemblance to a pylon. Henrik Zetterberg has been stellar over the past two losses despite not hitting the scoresheet, but he’ll also look to rebound after not even getting a shot on goal against Anaheim.
Prediction: 4-2 victory for the Red Wings. Henrik Zetterberg leads the offense with two goals, but Mrazek is ultimately the player of the game, stopping a torrent of 40+ Minnesota shots.