Detroit Red Wings (18-9-1, 37 pts) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (17-9-4, 38 pts)
Pre-Game Buzz: Is Malkin injured or not?
We knew going into tonight’s game that Jordan Staal’s availability for tonight was unclear due to a lower body injury but the mystery of the morning was Evgeni Malkin being absent from the team’s morning skate and the team later having no explanation whether Malkin is injured or not.
“Don’t have any details on Geno, ” head coach Dan Bylsma said who has called Malkin a game time decision. “You would be confirming something I didn’t say… He’s gametime, ” Bylsma later said when asked if he could confirm that Malkin is injured.
AUDIO LINK: Dan Bylsma Pre-Game Audio vs Red Wings
Team officials remain mum on why Malkin might not play tonight. Maybe he was late for a meeting, maybe he’s sick, maybe he’s dealing with a personal matter, maybe he actually is injured….who knows at this point. Malkin comes into tonight’s game, averaging 1.22 points per game, the third best mark in the NHL among players who have played 10 games or more. He’s tied for 20th in the NHL with 28 points has six multi-point games in his last ten games.
Staal a game time decision
Jordan Staal skated this morning and appeared optimistic about playing tonight. Staal though is scheduled to be evaluated closer to game time and a decision on him won’t be made until possibly after warmups.
AUDIO LINK: Jordan Staal on his status for tonight’s game
If Staal and Malkin don’t play, the Penguins top four centers tonight would be Pascal Dupuis, Joe Vitale, Craig Adams and Jason Williams who was recalled this morning.
“Difficult if Staal and Malkin don’t play, ” Bylsma said on his lineup. Our No. 1 center is Joe Vitale or Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis is expected to get an extended look at center with Sidney Crosby out indefinitely. Dupuis centered Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy in the morning skate that had Staal in between Chris Kunitz and James Neal.
— Zbynek Michalek is targeting a return for Friday night, a source says.
— Marc Andre Fleury (15-6-2) is vying for his 200th career win tonight. Fleury at age 27 (15 days) needs one more win in the next 10 days to become the fourth youngest goaltender to reach 200 wins: 1. Grant Fuhr 26 years, 122 days | 2. Martin Brodeur 26 years, 343 days | 3. Tom Barrasso 26 years, 354 days | 4. Patrick Roy 27 years, 26 days. Tonight also marks Fleury’s 391st game, and there are only four active goaltenders to reach 200 wins in 400 games or fewer: 1. Ryan Miller 361 | 2. Martin Brodeur 374 | 3. Miikka Kiprusoff 374 | 4. Henrik Lundqvist 383
— Tonight is a great goaltending matchup between Fleury and Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. Howard is 17-6-1 on the season with a 1.85 goals against average and .931 save percentage. Fleury is coming off a shaky performance against the Islanders where he struggled mightily with his angles.
— Early in the season NHL pundits were calling the Red Wings old and slow, claiming that their time has passed. Pundits were clearly off base and the Red Wings are back as a top contender in the Western Conference and they have plenty of cap space to be a force at the trade deadline. Detroit has $5.6 million in cap space which gives them a ton of wiggle room to make significant additions. Detroit has their sights set on Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and New Jersey’s Zach Parise, NHL sources say. The team also has their long-term sights set on Nashville’s Shea Weber.
— Joe Vitale is coming off arguably his best game of the season in his most extensive role. Vitale logged a career high 18:07 of ice time vs the Islanders, collecting an assist and was 59% in the faceoff circle. Vitale has assists in two of his last three games.
— Defenseman Matt Niskanen enters tonight with a team leading plus-12 rating while finishing with a plus or even rating in 24 of his 29 games played. It’s been a big turnaround for Niskanen, whose plus-12 rating has him tied for 6th among all defensemen this season. Niskanen has logged 20 plus minutes of ice time in five of the last six games, and has been a negative player just once in his last 15 games.
Injured Reserve/Won’t Play
D Brian Strait, injured reserve/hyper-extended elbow (22)
D Ben Lovejoy, injured reserve/broken wrist (15)
C Dustin Jeffrey, injured reserve/knee (13)
D Kris Letang, injured reserve/broken nose and concussion (6
D Zbynek Michalek, injured reserve/concussion (6)
F Richard Park, injured reserve/foot fracture (3)
D Robert Bortuzzo, concussion-like symptoms (1)
C Sidney Crosby, undisclosed symptoms (2)
Game Time Decisions
C Jordan Staal, lower body (1)
C, Evgeni Malkin, undisclosed reasons
2011-12 Total Man-Games Lost: 143