Morning Skate: Bruins at Red Wings Preview

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Game 76

8:00p ET, Joe Louis Arena

Detroit, MI

TV: NBCSN

Radio: 97.1 The Ticket

B's Blog: Stanley Cup of Chowder

It may have taken 34 days too many, but, ladies and gentleman, Pavel Datsyuk may have found his missing zest.

The best two way hockey player in the world (sorry, not sorry Patrice Bergeron. Also, you're not perfect. There is only one perfect hockey player, that's The Perfect Human, Nicklas Lidstrom), might be returning to game action tonight. Datsyuk is expected to take warm-ups and will be a game time decision. The sooner he's officially back, the better. Hell, even if he plays limited minutes tonight in select situations, that's fine by me. The Wings are a better team with him and they need him for this key stretch run to the playoffs.

While the Magic Man's potential return is the biggest storyline for the Red Wings, there are plenty others to talk about for tonight's contest. The Bruins are by far the hottest team in the league right now. They went 15-1-1 in the month of March, which included a 12 game winning streak (2nd best in their franchise history). They're on a 16 game point streak. Plus, they've won a franchise record nine straight games on the road. Hell, the last time they lost on the road was the day before Datsyuk's last game. Basically what I'm trying to say here is that the Bruins are playing well and the Wings will have their hands full tonight.

This game is also a potential playoff preview for round one. If the season ended today, the Wings would get the Penguins, but there's still a solid chance they'll end up in Boston for puck drop on April 17. It'll be interesting to see how an unhealthy Red Wings team matches up against a healthy Bruins team.

What other storylines are there? Well, the always fun brother versus brother rivalry, Brendan Smith versus Reilly Smith. There's the old versus young, NHL stars of the month battle, Jarome Iginla (1st star, 17 points in 17 games) versus Gustav Nyquist (2nd star, 18 points in 15 games). Last, but not least, the Bruins have the East all but officially locked up, will they rest some of their bigger names? They've recalled one of their better prospects, Ryan Spooner. Does that mean someone is hurt for the Bruins or are they starting to rest some guys? David Krejci was rumored to be a little under the weather yesterday and Carl Soderberg's wife is close to giving birth, so the Red Wings might not see a full Bruins lineup anyway.

Regardless, whether it's a complete Boston team or Datsyuk sits or plays, this is going to be one hell of a challenge for the Wings. When playing the schedule game, I chalked this game up as a loss. I'm still expecting it to be a loss tonight, but if the Wings can somehow manage to get a point of this contest, I'd be incredibly pleased. Points are still at a premium. Detroit is in a much better position in the wild card race these days, but nothing is set in stone. Points tonight would go a very long way.

The Expected Lineup

Forwards

Justin Abdelkader Pavel Datsyuk Daniel Alfredsson
Johan Franzen David Legwand Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar Riley Sheahan Tomas Jurco
Drew Miller Luke Glendening Darren Helm

Defensemen

Niklas Kronwall Brendan Smith
Kyle Quincey Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff Jakub Kindl

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard (starting)
Jonas Gustavsson


Scratches: Todd Bertuzzi & Joakim Andersson

Injuries: Jonathan Ericsson (finger), Daniel Cleary (knee), Stephen Weiss (groin), Henrik Zetterberg (back) & Mikael Samuelsson (who cares)

BRUINS THE MATCH-UP RED WINGS
52-17-6 (110 pts; 1st in NHL) Record 35-26-14 (84 pts; 1st in WC Race)
3.17 (3rd in NHL) Goals Per Game 2.63 (19th in NHL)
2.05 (1st) Goals Against Per Game 2.73 (18th)
21.0% (3rd) Power Play % 17.8% (17th)
84.3% (7th) Penalty Kill % 83.5% (9th)
Jarome Iginla (30 goals) Goal Leader Gustav Nyquist (27 goals)
David Krejci (63 points) Points Leader Henrik Zetterberg (48 points)

Opponent Outlook

Bruins Forwards

Milan Lucic David Krejci Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly Carl Soderberg Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille Gregory Campbell Shawn Thornton


Bruins Defensemen

Zdeno Chara Dougie Hamilton
Johnny Boychuk Matt Bartkowski
Kevan Miller Torey Krug


Bruins Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask (starting)
Chad Johnson



Player to Fear: Well, if you're fearing for your safety, Shawn Thornton could attack from behind and Brad Marchand could hit you low. If you're fearing players for their actual hockey skills, well, I'll go with Tuukka Rask for this one. He's good. Might get a little too much credit thanks to playing in a great Claude Julien defensive system that has made a lot of goalies look good, but make not mistake, Rask is a excellent.

X-Factor: Patrice Bergeron. He's scored in seven straight games (Eight goals total). Plus, he's the favorite to win the Hart trophy according to Mike Milbury.

Familiar Faces: None.

Thumbs up (One Thing to Like About Boston): I live here and am happily employed.

Thumbs down (One Thing to Dislike About Boston): The drivers here are the worst.

Bullets of Knowledge

  • The Red Wings are 251-235-95-1 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Bruins.

  • Last 10 games: Boston 9-0-1. Detroit 6-3-1.

  • Howard is 3-1-0 with a 2.21 GAA, .931 SV% in 4 career apperances against Boston.

Prediction: Bear attack.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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