PENGUINS (45-19-4, 94 pts) @ RED WINGS (31-24-13, 75 pts)
After taking the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks to seven games in the second round of last year’s playoffs, many looked at the Detroit Red Wings coming into this season in a move to the Eastern Conference as possibly the second best team in the East behind the Boston Bruins.
That hasn’t come to fruition due to a significant amount of injuries and goaltender Jimmy Howard having a down year.
Injuries have put Detroit’s playoff streak of 22 straight years in jeopardy as they trail the final wildcard spot by one game.
Here are the notable payers out of Detroit’s lineup tonight per the Detroit Free Press: Henrik Zetterberg (back, out rest of season), Pavel Datsyuk (knee, out at least through March), Jonathan Ericsson (finger, out rest of season), Joakim Andersson (foot, out at least through late March), Justin Abdelkader (leg, out through March), Tomas Jurco (ribs, out through March), Jonas Gustavsson (groin, day-to-day), Darren Helm (concussion, out indefinitely), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia, out indefinitely), Daniel Cleary (knee, out indefinitely) and Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder, out indefinitely).
These are two crucial points for the Red Wings tonight and Mike Babcock’s response to the Red Wings being severely undermanned tonight in the skill department: “We know tonight the other team is gonna have more skill than us. So what? Skill doesn’t win, teams win,” Babcock said.
The Penguins lead the NHL in man-games lost at 419 but Detroit’s injuries have been more significant as they have been without Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk for months, losing Zetterberg for the season.
Detroit could still sneak into the playoffs and get Pavel Datsyuk and others back in April, but unless Howard regains his form, they don’t look like a team that could be a serious threat to Boston and Pittsburgh in the conference like a lot of pundits felt they would be this season.