Morning Skate: Duel in Dallas

Just like the standings...Kronwall and Morrow are way too close (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images).

15 wins-in-a-row at home is awesome, but it's a quick turnaround and right back to buisness for the hockey team from the Motor City.

The Red Wings travel to Dallas for their second game in as many nights. Right now, if the season ended today, the Wings would be the 5th seed in the West and have a first round date with the Blackhawks. The Blues currently lead the Central and the Western Conference. Fortunately, today isn't the end of the season and every game from now until the end of the year is a pretty big game.

In the past, we've seen Wings teams that have had the division wrapped up by February and coasted to the playoffs. Not this season. It's not quite playoff hockey, but every win and every point is huge in the grand scheme of things. St. Louis isn't going away. Chicago isn't going away. The Predators -- only three points back -- are not going away.

So that takes us to Dallas.

The Stars are fighting through some injuries and fighting for their playoff lives. They're sitting in 10th place in the West and are two points out of 8th. They need this game just as much as the Wings do. The Stars are one of those teams you cannot overlook. They're one of those teams that no matter where they are in the standings, they're going to give the Wings a fight.

And the Wings better be ready for a fight tonight.

Both teams played last night. Both teams had to travel to Dallas for tonight's game. For the Wings, no one played less than 10 minutes last night and only three players -- Kronwall, Stuart, and White -- played more than 20. They're legs should be as fresh as ever when it comes to playing a back-to-back and they better be able to work hard. No late starts tonight. No taking shifts off. The Central Division and Western Conferences are a dog fight...and the Wings better be ready to throw some punches.

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Defending Big D is your SBNation Stars' blog.

Puck drop is just after 8:30p ET on Fox Sports Detroit.

The Expected Lineup

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Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller

Jan Mursak -- Justin Abdelkader -- Tomas Holmstrom

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Nicklas Lidstrom -- Ian White

Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Mike Commodore -- Jonathan Ericsson

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Ty Conklin (starting)

Jimmy Howard

Scratches: Jakub Kindl and Cory Emmerton

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (jaw)

RED WINGS HOW THEY MATCH UP STARS
29-15-1 (59 pts; 5th in West) Record 24-19-1 (49 pts; 10th in West)
3.20 (1st) Goals Per Game 2.66 (14th)
2.29 (5th) Goals Against Per Game 2.84 (20th)
19.1% (6th) Power Play % 13.6% (28th)
81.1% (21st) Penalty Kill % 81.3% (23rd)
Johan Franzen (18 goals) Goal Leader Michael Ryder (17 goals)
Pavel Datsyuk (49 points) Points Leader Jamie Benn (42 points)

  • The Red Wings are 103-96-34-5 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise.
  • The Wings may have won 15-games-in-a-row at home, but they're only 11-13-0 on the road. Sooner or later this team is going to have to get that road record above .500 if they want to win the Central.
  • Detroit is 6-3-0 on the 2nd night of back-to-backs this season. However, they're 2-3-0 when the 2nd night of a back-to-back is on the road.
  • Pavel Datsyuk's 49 points places him 4th in league scoring. He's behind Henrik Sedin (52 points), Evgeni Malkin (51 points), and Steven Stamkos (50 points) and tied with Daniel Sedin and Claude Giroux. Pretty amazing season he's having right now. Don't blink or else you'll miss it.
  • The Stars have lost three of their last four games, including a 1-0 shutout loss to the Blues last night in St. Louis.
  • Dallas is expected to be without leading scorer Jamie Benn, who had emergency appendectomy surgery. They'll also be without Mike Ribeiro...so expect less diving.
  • Todd Bertuzzi has three goals in his last two games.
  • The Stars are expected to start Richard Bachman tonight. He he's played in 10 games this season and has a 6-2-0 record with a 2.56 GAA, .917 SV%, and one shutout.

Prediction: It's a close one, but the Wings pull it out and win 3-2. Valtteri Filppula is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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