Penguins-Red Wings Preview
Already without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the Detroit Red Wings will have to overcome another key injury as they try to climb into the playoff picture.
A visit from the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins presents another difficult challenge.
In their first game since losing defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, the Red Wings continue their postseason push when they face the Penguins on Thursday night.
Detroit (31-24-13) had dropped three of four before beating Toronto 3-2 on Tuesday. Gustav Nyquist scored twice and Daniel Alfredsson snapped a season-high nine-game drought as the Red Wings improved to 7-0-2 over their last nine on home ice.
Detroit is one point behind Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"I think every game for us here on out is huge," defenseman Danny DeKeyser told the team’s official website. "We need to get two points in pretty much every game that we can."
Doing so won’t be easy without Ericsson, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a broken finger suffered against the Maple Leafs. Brendan Smith will take his place on the top defensive pairing with Niklas Kronwall.
"We’re going to have to do it by committee and take advantage of the opportunity we have now," defenseman Brian Lashoff said. "We lost Kronner for a bit, we lost DK for a bit so we’re used to it now. We just have to rally together."
The Red Wings haven’t enjoyed much success against Pittsburgh (45-19-4) of late, dropping four of six. Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby scored twice in a 4-1 win at Detroit on Dec. 14, giving him seven points in seven regular-season meetings with the Red Wings.
"We know he’s one of the best players in the world, if not the best," DeKeyser said of Crosby, whose 91 points easily lead the NHL. "Everybody knows that. We expect him to come out and play hard and we just got to try to match that and try to shut those guys down and do the best we can."
The Red Wings will also need to be wary of Evgeni Malkin, who has six goals and 13 assists in his last 15 games in the series, including the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup finals.
"They’ve got some star players," Lashoff added. "They’re one of the best in the conference. It’s a huge game with everything that’s been going on. We have to take advantage and get some points."
Pittsburgh suffered back-to-back defeats before bouncing back with Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Dallas. Crosby and Lee Stempniak combined for three goals and three assists while Chris Kunitz added one of each.
"We weren’t happy with those losses, we have to do better," Crosby said. "We wanted to make sure we went out there and played hard. It’s a desperate team we’re playing and hopefully we can build that same emotion, same intensity we had tonight and carry it over to the rest of the season."
Jeff Zatkoff made 32 saves, but Pittsburgh could go back to Marc-Andre Fleury, who is tied for the NHL lead with 34 wins. Fleury is 3-7-0 with a 3.27 goals-against average in Detroit – including playoffs – but he hasn’t played there in four years.
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard has won two of three starts after stopping 31 shots against the Leafs. Howard, 5-1-2 with a 2.12 GAA in his last eight home games, is 2-0-1 with a 1.93 GAA against the Penguins.
Alfredsson has 11 points in his last seven games versus Pittsburgh. The Red Wings are 19-4-5 this season when he notches at least one point.