What: St. Louis Blues at Detroit Red Wings
When: 7:30 p.m tonight
Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN2
Records: The Red Wings are 7-4-1; the Blues are 6-5-1
Coaches: Mike Babcock is 428-221-19-84 in his tenth season as a head coach, and 359-159-69 in his eighth season with the Red Wings. Ken Hitchcock is 582-370-88-82 in his 16th season as a head coach, including 49-20-12 in his second season with the Blues.
Season Series: The Red Wings lead the series 2-1.
Last Meeting: The Red Wings returned to the scene of an embarrassing 6-0 loss in the season opener, and cruised to a 5-1 victory. Danny Cleary, Jakub Kindl, Cory Emmerton, Damien Brunner, and Valtteri Filppula all scored in a balanced attack. The third and fourth lines combined for eight points in the game, and rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped 26 of 27 shots in his NHL debut. The Blues' lone goal came from Alex Pietrangelo.
Blues Update: After starting 6-1, the Blues have lost five straight games, with their latest being a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Alex Steen scored the lone goal for St. Louis. The Blues have three players tied for the team lead in goals scored with five a piece (Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Berglund, and Chris Stewart). Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk leads the team in scoring with 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists). Goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin) remains out, leaving Brian Elliott to start in net. While the Blues have one of the best scoring offenses (4th in NHL), and the best power play, they are 18th in goals allowed and 23rd on the penalty kill. They also have been outscored 28-11 in the last five games.
Red Wings Update: The Wings have won their last three games, with the latest being a dramatic 3-2 win over the Kings when Jonathan Ericsson scored the game winning goal with 4.5 seconds left. Damien Brunner and Pavel Datsyuk also scored, and Jimmy Howard stopped 45 shots. Brunner continues to impress by leading the team with six goals. Henrik Zetterberg has vaulted himself into the discussion for MVP with a team-leading 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists). Datsyuk (13 points–5 goals, 8 assists) and Niklas Kronwall (10 points–1 goal, 9 assists) have also cracked double digits in scoring. The Wings will be without Johan Franzen (hip), Todd Bertuzzi (back), Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (groin), Brendan Smith (shoulder), and Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder). Samuelsson could be returning soon, however, but won't play tonight. The Wings have made steady improvements on the power play and penalty kill.
PLAYER POSITION BREAKDOWN
Centers: Zetterberg and Datsyuk have been thorns in the side of the Blues, with Datsyuk being most productive in the faceoff circle. Berglund will likely be centering the Blues' top line, as David Backes continues to have issues winning faceoffs. Justin Abdelkader moves from center to wing, so Joakim Andersson will be at third line center, which gives the Wings more depth down the middle.
Edge: Red Wings
Wingers: After a hot start, Tarasenko has hit the rookie wall. Brunner tallied a goal in the last meeting, but the Wings could have issues with no Franzen. Abdelkader can match him in terms of physicallity, but Valtteri Filppula and Cleary will have to be relied upon more for scoring. Chris Stewart could be a good match against Abdelkader, but the Blues will need TJ Oshie, David Perron, and Andy McDonald to produce.
Defensemen: Pietrangelo has been the brightest spot for the Blues this season, as he continues to make his case for Norris Trophy. He has been paired with Wade Redden, but Hitchcock could put him back with Shattenkirk. Kronwall has been pushing his nose into the Norris conversation as well, but he will need to cut down on the cheap penalties that he has accumulated. Brian Lashoff will remain paired with Kronwall, while Ericsson and Ian White will be together.
Goaltending: Despite an impressive debut by Mrazek, Babcock will stick with Howard (6-4-1, 2.78 GAA, .906 save percentage). Howard will need to keep up his strong play. Elliott (3-5-1, 3.57 GAA, .849 save percentage) will go for the Blues. If Elliott continues his poor play, expect AHL call up Jake Allen to see action.
Edge: Red Wings
Prediction: It may only be the start of the second quarter of the NHL season, but the Blues are starting to show signs of desperation. Hitchcock's bunch needs to right the ship or they could be in big trouble. The Red Wings have continued to climb the mountain, and need to keep the success going to keep up with the Chicago Blackhawks. This could be a nasty game, but expect the home team to squeak out a win.
Make it: Red Wings 3, Blues 2 in overtime.
Season Prediction Record: 6-6-0
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