Morning Skate: Calling on the Kids

TRAVERSE CITY MI - SEPTEMBER 11: Brendan Smith #2 of the Detroit Red Wings turns up ice during NHL Prospects Tournament on Saturday September 11 2010 at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Just before the all-star break we got an exaggerated preview of what life will be like without Nicklas Lidstrom. It was an ugly, ugly night in Montreal. That game wasn't really the true version of what to expect when The Perfect Human retires. We saw a little bit more of a preview Tuesday in Columbus. With the news that Lidstrom is out the next two games, we'll see it again tonight.

We as fans might hate it when Lidstrom doesn't play, but it's a chance for the young kids to step up. Tuesday we saw Jakub Kindl go from a potential Leino Lounge permanent resident to having one one of his best games of the season. We saw the return of the Wings top prospect -- and my favorite player -- Brendan Smith. He was limited in ice time, but he was effective when he got the chance. And let's not forget about Kyle Quincey. Kindl is 25 and Smith is 23, but Quincey is still young too. The 26-year-old will return to the lineup tonight and provide an upgrade to whichever pair he plays on. The point is that one day, whether we like it or not, Lidstrom won't be playing anymore and sooner or later we're going to have to count on guys like Smith and Quincey (and Ryan Suter) to get the job done.

The kids will get a chance tonight to show what they've got against a Wild team that, statistically speaking, sucks on offense. They're 29th in the league in goals per game, but just last night against the Canadiens they scored four goals. They either shot their load on offense for the rest of the week or they've found their scoring touch. I'm going guess it's the former rather the latter, but it's up to guys like Smith and Kindl to make sure the Wild stay off the score sheet.

The Wings are back in the lead in the Central and can take another step towards claiming the division once again. It's all about the two points. The race for the playoffs continues tonight and the kids need to step it up.

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Hockey Wilderness is your SBNation Wild blog.

Puck drop is just after 7:30p ET on Fox Sports Detroit.

The Expected Lineup

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Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Justin Abdelkader -- Todd Bertuzzi

Johan Franzen -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller

Jan Mursak -- Cory Emmerton -- Tomas Holmstrom

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Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Kyle Quincey -- Ian White

Brendan Smith -- Jakub Kindl

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Jimmy Howard (starting)

Joey MacDonald

Scratches Sent to Grand Rapids: Doug Janik

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (knee) and Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle)

WILD HOW THEY MATCH UP RED WINGS
28-26-10 (66 pts; 12th in West) Record 42-19-3 (87 pts; 3rd in NHL)
2.14 (29th in NHL) Goals Per Game 3.05 (5th in NHL)
2.56 (10th) Goals Against Per Game 2.33 (5th)
15.4% (25th) Power Play % 17.5% (14th)
82.3% (12th) Penalty Kill % 82.1% (15th)
Dany Heatley (20 goals) Goal Leader Johan Franzen (24 goals)
Dany Heatley (46 points) Points Leader Pavel Datsyuk (59 points)

  • The Red Wings are 28-7-3-5 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Minnesota Wild franchise.
  • The Wild are one of five teams to win at the Joe this season (the others: SJ, VAN, CGY and COL).
  • Niklas Backstrom left just over two minutes into the first period of the Wild's game last night in Montreal. He made a kick save with his right leg and could not get up. Josh Harding finished the game and I would expect him to start tonight. Harding is 4-4-2 all-time against the Wings with a 2.87 GAA and .921 SV%. He has one shutout. Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard is 7-7-2 all-time against the Wild with a 2.04 GAA and .914 SV%.
  • The Wings are streaking again at home...except this time it's a winless streak. Detroit is 0-1-1 at home in their last two games.
  • Detroit finished the month of February with an 8-3-2 record. Henrik Zetterberg led all Wings with 16 points (5 G, 11 A) in 13 games during the month.
  • This is Detroit final game of the season against the WIld. They're currently 1-1-1 against them. Ian White, Val Filppula, and Johan Franzen all lead the team with 2 points each against the Wild this season.

Prediction: I said on the podcast that the Wings would sweep the week and Jimmy would have two shutouts. Well, the Wings helped by getting two points on Tuesday, but there wasn't a shutout and, well, Jimmy didn't play. So the kids step up their game with the help of their netminder and the Wings get shutout number one for the week. Wings win 3-0 and Jimmy Howard is your player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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