Jimmy Howard will start in net again for the Wings tonight. Howard played his best game of the season on Wednesday night against Calgary. He was very sharp all night and made some great saves on the Flames and most importantly kept the Wings in the game as they only solved Kiprusoff twice in the game.
Edmonton started out hot with two wins (4-0 over Calgary, 3-2 over Florida) but lost four straight. Their next two they lost by way of the shootout to Calgary and Columbus. The next game they stomped the Blackhawks 7-4 and followed that with a strong effort in a 4-3 loss to Vancouver. Against Vancouver, the Oilers dropped behind to the tune of 3-0 in the first period before scoring three consecutive goals of their own to tie it. Raffi Torres finished off his hattrick to win the game for Vancouver but Edmonton showed a lot of fight.
Jiri Hudler will return to the line-up tonight,likely replacing a fourth line player like Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves. I don't think either of those players necessarily deserves to be sat but as Petrella said yesterday on TPL, we have the "good problem"of having 13 valuable forwards and only 12 spots. It should be interesting to see how Hudler adjusts to two things: 1.) having to sit for two straight games and 2.) playing with new linemates. I'm hoping that point #1 will fire him up and that maybe point #2 will help him adjust and start shooting more.
Has Todd Bertuzzi's great offensive start been slowed? He's gone three straight without a point and has only one shot per game in the past three. Nevertheless, Bert has played solid at both ends of the ice still and has been a big plus on this team so far. But, tonight will hopefully be the night he gets back on the scoreboard.
Edmonton's penalty kill is the worst in the league at 68.8%. Detroit needs to use tonight to get the power play unit rolling as Edmonton is allowing 1.5 PPG a game. ATTACK!
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Nikolai Khabibulin is the likely starter for the Oilers in net tonight, despite a 3.45 GAA and .897 SV%. Despite having a 3.45 GAA and a worse defensive corps in front of him, he has a higher save percentage...and BAC.
Talked about Edmonton's penalty kill before the jump and now time to look at their PP unit. Their power play is actually only two spots behind Detroit at 15.2% and might be a test for the Wings' penalty kill. Luckily for Detroit, the penalty kill is at 90.2%
Edmonton averages the second lowest shots per game at 26.7 and Detroit allows exactly 26.7 shots per game...so, expect Edmonton to get 26 and 7/10 of a shot on net tonight. Detroit is averaging 33.3 shots per game and Edmonton allows 34.5. So I think that much like on Wednesday, Detroit should heavily outshoot the opponent.
Detroit's had a really good year so far in the faceoff dot with the fourth best percentage at 54.4% while Edmonton has the second worse at 43.3%. Expect Babcock to preach possession by way of faceoff wins and ,as a result, put shots on net.
I really don't have much else, I'm just reading for this freaking game to start. Which it doesn't until 9:00 PM ET
Key match-up to watch when Edmonton has the puck: To be honest, I'm really looking forward to watching Jordan Eberle play. I know the headlines are with Hall, but Eberle has been pretty impressive thus far. He has 4 goals and 4 assists in the 10 games so far this season and is logging the fourth highest average of time on ice for a penalty killer as well as getting some time on the power play.
Key match-up to watch when Detroit has the puck: Third line. They were great in the Calgary game and it'll be interesting to see if they can carry any of that confidence into tonight's contest. Abdelkader was good addition to the third line and I think he's helped Modano and Cleary get their game going as well.
Bold prediction for the game: The second line will dominate tonight. Bertuzzi and Franzen will both score and Filppula will be a big presence.
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