Scouting Report: Detroit Red Wings

Scouting Report: Detroit Red Wings

Published Nov. 25, 2010 11:16 p.m. ET

By Eric Smith

November 25, 2010

The battle for first place in the Western Conference happens at the quarter pole of the season when the Red Wings and Blue Jackets face off inside Nationwide Arena.

Columbus may be a surprise atop the conference but Detroit knows this spot well. There is a difference between being the hunter and the hunted and the winged wheels know they get everyone's best shot every night. The Blue Jackets will start to get that as the respect around the league grows with the upstart Columbus club.

Detroit comes with a lot of fire power that is hitting on all cylinders as they are second in the NHL in scoring averaging at 3.53 goals a game. Of course their power play is lethal as it seems to be every year. At 22.1% they are tied for seventh in the league. Johan Franzen leads the team with four goals with the man advantage and the ageless one, Nicklas Lidstrom, has ten of his 17 assists on the power play.

It's not all done on the power play though as they will sting you straight up on even strength. With the names you think of when Detroit comes calling like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holstrom, Franzen and Lidstrom can make players like Danny Cleary get forgotten but shouldn't be. Cleary is tied for the team in goals at nine and they all have come at even strength.

The goaltending situation is much different than what the Blue Jackets have with two solid goalies in Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon. Right now it's Jimmy Howard who has played ten straight games, Chris Osgood is out with an injury and their current backup net minder Joey MacDonald hasn't started a game in a month and that was at AHL Grand Rapids.

Howard hasn't been spectacular but he doesn't have to be with this club. As long as he keeps the other team to a reasonable goal total, the Red Wings offense will take care of the rest. The Ogdensberg, New York native has a 2.62 goals against average with a .908 save percentage that are numbers that you wouldn't write home about but his record of 11-2-2 would be.

Reports are that MacDonald will get the net either at Nationwide on Friday or on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. This wouldn't be the first time for MacDonald to get a start for the Red Wings as he had 7 starts back in the 2006-07 season. It didn't go so well as he had a 1-5-1 record with a 3.46 goals against average. His time this year in Grand Rapids was short but he put up decent number with a 2-1-1 record and a 1.72 goals against average.

Here are the keys for the Blue Jackets to be alone atop the Western Conference when they wake up on Saturday.