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Game Preview: Wild at Red Wings

January 25th, 2013 at 8:00 AM
By Frank Vajcner

What: Minnesota Wild at Detroit Red Wings

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan

TV: Fox Sports Detroit Plus, NHL Network

Records: The Red Wings are 1-2-0; the Wild are 2-1-0

Coaches: Mike Babcock is 422-218-19-83 in his tenth season as a head coach, and 353-156-68 in his eighth season with the Red Wings. Mike Yeo is 37-37-11 in his second year as a head coach, all with the Wild.

Season series: The Red Wings went 2-1-1 against the Wild last season, with the most recent win being a 6-0 win at Joe Louis Arena March 2, 2012.

Red Wings update: The team has gotten better in some areas since getting housed in the season opener, but struggles in others. The injuries keep piling up for the Wings as defenseman Ian White was the latest to go down with a lacerated leg suffered in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars Tuesday. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. White joins fellow defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder) on injured reserve. The good news for the Wings is that they will get defenseman Jakub Kindl (groin) back for the game, along with winger Todd Bertuzzi (flu) and center Darren Helm (back). Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (shoulder) is still questionable for a return, and winger Mikael Samuelsson (groin) remains out.

Wild update: The Wild have become a popular pick to win a deeper Northwest Division, with the big offseason acquisitions of winger Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter. They were in first place in the Western Conference for the early part of the season last year until they stumbled badly and never recovered. The Wild are coming off of a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, which was their first of the year. In terms of injuries, defenseman Jared Spurgeon is out with a foot injury.

PLAYER GROUP BREAKDOWN

Centers: Henrik Zetterberg will center the Wings' top line. He will be going up against the Wild's top center Mikko Koivu. Zetterberg played mostly at center in the loss to Dallas. That will put Pavel Datsyuk at second-line center against either Kyle Brodziak or Matt Cullen. Datsyuk has won 72% of his faceoffs this season, . Helm will be back at third-line center going against either Brodziak or Cullen, moving Justin Abdelkader to fourth-line, where he could face enforcer Zenon Konopka. The Wild are a lot bigger down the middle than Dallas and Columbus, and do a lot more setting up goal scorers. However, they lack a true shutdown center.

Edge: Slightly to the Red Wings

Wingers: Parise and Dany Heatley are probably the best high scoring wingers that the Red Wings have faced this season. Heatley has tallied three goals this season so far. Johan Franzen moves up to the top line, so look for him and Damien Brunner to get help from Zetterberg playing center. Devin Setoguchi was a thorn in the Wings' side during his days with the Sharks,and he could be joined on the second line by either Pierre-Marc Bouchard, stat sheet-stuffer Cal Clutterbuck, or rookie Mikael Granlund. With Datsyuk at second-line center, Valtteri Filppula will move to wing, and Bertuzzi will play on the same line. The fourth-line matchup could be scrappy with Jordin Tootoo going against Torrey Mitchell. All in all, this is the best group of wingers that the Red Wings will have faced to this point.

Edge: Wild

Defensemen: Suter will be without his blue line partner Spurgeon, meaning either Tom Gilbert or Clayton Stoner will move up. Niklas Kronwall will likely stay paired with Brian Lashoff, as Ericsson is not expected to play. Kindl will take White's spot next to Kent Huskins. It is worth noting that Brendan Smith scored his first career goal against the Wild last March. Even with Suter, this is still the weakest area for the Wild.

Edge: Red Wings

Goaltending: Jimmy Howard was in net for all four meetings against the Wild last season, and posted a 1.23 GAA with a .938 save percentage. He could use this as a chance to keep up his rebound from a bad opener. The Wild will go with Josh Harding between the pipes. Harding started all four games against the Wings, and posted mixed results. His best showing was a shutout on October 29, 2011, but he also gave up six goals in the 6-0 loss, It is worth noting that Harding has yet to allow a goal this season.

Edge: Wild (barely)

Prediction: This is a tough part in the schedule for both teams, as both teams have big showdowns looming on Sunday (Wild play the Blues, Red Wings play the Blackhawks). An argument could be made for both teams that this is a trap game. The fact that the Red Wings are still struggling on offense and going against a goalie who has not allowed a goal this season puts this in favor of the visitor.

Make it: Wild 3, Red Wings 1

Season Prediction Record: 2-1-0

Tags: Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL

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