Morning Skate: New York, New York

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 29: Brendan Smith #2 of the Detroit Red Wings hits Artem Anisimov #42 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 29 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The game I've been waiting months for...and now I'm dreading it.

This was supposed to be a showdown of the top two teams in the NHL. It was supposed to be the best in the West against the best in the East. Instead we get the top team in the East against a struggling Red Wings team that is just trying to stay afloat and not fall too far down the standings.

The Red Wings could still win this game, but let's just say I'm not holding my breath on that. The main reason is because of who is going to be between the pipes. With Jimmy Howard re-aggrivating his groin injury and Joey MacDonald out with back issues, the Wings will be calling on the services of everyone's favorite goaltender this season, Ty Conklin. But wait! There's more! If Conklin doesn't clear re-entry waivers, Jordan Pearce will get his first career NHL start. To sum it up, those are two names you don't want to hear starting against the top team in the East.

Maybe one of those two surprises us. Maybe the whole team surprises us? Maybe the Wings realize their backs are up against the wall and they work their asses off and can claw and scratch their way to a win? Maybe Brendan Smith will put the team on his back and lead the Wings to victory? We won't know until the puck drops. Then we'll see early on which Red Wings team is going to show up. The Rangers are known for working hard and playing team defense. If the Wings don't get started on time, well, it's going to be a long night for me and all the Wings fans at home and at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Wings got a gift last night when the Predators lost at home to the Oilers. It would be nice to capitalize and grab two points and 4th place. Right now, these two points are crucial and they matter more than ever. Playoff seeding and another 100 point season are in jeopardy. It's an up hill battle and a long shot in the big apple, but let's hope that if the Wings are going down, they go down swinging and put up one hell of a fight tonight against the Rangers.

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Blueshirt Banter is your SBNation Rangers' blog.

Puck drop is just after 7:30p ET on NBC Sports Network.

The Expected Lineup

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Gustav Nyquist -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi

Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler

Danny Cleary -- Justin Abdelkader -- Drew Miller

Jan Mursak -- Cory Emmerton -- Tomas Holmstrom

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Niklas Kronwall -- Brad Stuart

Kyle Quincey -- Ian White

Brendan Smith -- Doug Janik

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Ty Conklin (starting if he clears re-entry waivers)

Jordan Pearce

Injuries: Patrick Eaves (concussion), Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Jakub Kindl (oblique), Johan Franzen (back), Joey MacDonald (back), Darren Helm (knee) and Jimmy Howard (groin)

RED WINGS HOW THEY MATCH UP RANGERS
44-25-4 (92 pts; 5th in West) Record 45-20-7 (97 pts; 1st in East)
2.97 (6th in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.72 (11th in NHL)
2.42 (4th) Goals Against Per Game 2.15 (3rd)
15.8 (23rd) Power Play % 14.5% (29th)
80.7% (21st) Penalty Kill % 86.6% (5th)
Johan Franzen (26 goals) Goal Leader Marion Gaborik (35 goals)
Pavel Datsyuk (60 points) Points Leader Marion Gaborik (66 points)

  • The Red Wings are 261-210-103-0 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the New York Rangers franchise.
  • Both teams have struggled recently. The Wings are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and the Rangers are 4-5-1.
  • I was surprised to see how bad to the Rangers power play percentage is. With that said, I bet New York scores a PP goal tonight.
  • The Rangers are the only Eastern Conference team that has clinched a playoff spot so far this season. Don't expect them to rest or hold back or anything though. The Penguins are nipping at their heels for the Atlantic Division title. The Rangers still have a lot to play for. Although it'd be cool if they decided to give Henrik Lundqvist the night off.
  • Henrik Lundqvist is 0-3-1 with a 3.78 GAA and .891 SV% in his career against the Red Wings. Ty Conklin is 4-1-0 with a 2.60 GAA, .922 SV% and one shutout in his career against the Rangers. Jordan Pearce has never started played in the NHL.
  • The last time a WIIM member (J.J. and Graham) went to at Wings game it was January 8 in Chicago. The Wings won 3-2 on the road with Ty Conklin on net. Let's hope I have the same luck with Ty Conklin in net tonight in New York City.

Prediction: The Red Wings are 24-0-1 (W-L-OTL) when I attend one of their games (1-0-0 on the road). Sadly, I think there is going to be a 1 added to the middle column after tonight. It pains me to do this and I hope like hell I'm wrong, but the Wings are most likely going to lose again tonight. I'm thinking 4-2 Rangers and, what the hell, Brendan Smith will make me proud and he's the Wings' player of the game.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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