Two days removed from a victory over Calgary, the Red Wings welcome the Ducks into their barn for the last time this season in what's just another one of those scheduling quirks. The last time these two faced off, Rocky IV happened. An American fought a Russian; one was a tall, angry blond, while the other was a short and very strong dark-haired man with still a slightly below-average grasp on the English language. The only difference is that the hero of that game was the Russian, who won the fight. Hey, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change, right?
I must break it down into bullet points.
- Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal again. That's what makes him the starter. He's played four so far and the Wings have earned 7 points in his starts, including 2 in the first game of the season where he stopped all 21 Anaheim shots. He is not human, he is like a doughy piece of iron.
- The Ducks' last game was also Thursday. They beat the Flyers 3-2 with a late goal in the third to improve to 3-4-1. Thanks to a weird St. Louis game outlier earlier, they're still getting outshot by an average of ten shots per game
- Todd Bertuzzi didn't practice yesterday. Babcock hasn't said anything about it other than it's not his back flaring up again and that he expects Bertuzzi to play tonight. Maybe leading the team in points is worth a morning off every now and then.
Justin Abdelkader says he's ready to go. He's healthy now and might find time soon. I don't know if you can break up the fourth line with how well they played against Calgary, but if Bert can't go for any reason, Abdelkader, who has been practicing with Franzen and Filppula would likely slot in there.
- Andreas Lilja returns to the Joe Louis Arena tonight. I'm curious to see how the home crowd will receive him. As far as I'm concerned, he's a Duck now, so he can eat a fat crap sandwich. This will be his fourth game of the season (the Ducks' ninth), but he's fourth among Anaheim defenseman in points with one assist and he's only one of three without a minus rating. His defensive partner Paul Mara has a plus-3 rating, leading the D.
- Two SB Nation enemy blogs to peruse. Anaheim Calling exclusively dabbles in Ducks while Battle of California makes them share an apartment with Kings and Sharks talk. Both good reads.
Jump through for more.
- Anaheim's penalty killing gets it done 82% of the time so far. Naturally, they're leading the league in penalty minutes, averaging 24.5 minutes per game. Even when you take out their league-leading majors (10) and misconducts (4), they still take the most penalties.
- The Ducks' power play is a tale of two cities. In Anaheim, they convert 1/3rd of their opportunities; in any other city, they're 1 for 17. This averages out to 18.8%.
- So how does Detroit stack up? The Wings' power play is slightly worse than Anaheim's at 17.2%, but they're only 2 for 12 at home. If Anaheim hits their average with penalties and Detroit hits their average with power plays, expect a 1-for-6 performance and some unhappy Wings fans. On the other side, Detroit's penalty kill works 91.3% of the time and is yet to allow a power play goal against at home.
- Key match-up to watch when Anaheim has the puck: Getzlaf and Perry lead the way for this team. Expect a heavy dose of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom against them. Quieting those two goes a long way to shutting down the Ducks.
- Key match-up to watch wen Detroit has the puck: I'm watching our third line of Hudler-Modano-Cleary tonight. Their last really good game was the season-opener against Anaheim and they need to start showing signs of gelling soon. This line was on the ice against and completely at fault for both of Calgary's goals on Thursday. If they don't show improvement, I wouldn't be surprised to see Datsyuk and Zetterberg double shifting to provide them some spark. It's not like the Eurotwins won't have some time to rest if they have to play big minutes tonight. Detroit's next game isn't until Thursday.
- No changes in the expected lines since the last game as of yet.
- Finally, in honor of the OC Register's Thursday photo gallery of ten reasons to love/hate the Red Wings (in which the author still hasn't corrected the sentence saying Babcock's system has spurned two trips to the cup finals instead of spurred), we decided to do our own. Since none of us could think of even one reason to love the Ducks, we only have five reasons to hate them:
- They still have what rightfully should be our cup banner from 2007. Goonish crap and luck got them past Detroit in the conference finals.
- The Brian Burke goon influence has not left them, even though he has. Anaheim plays ugly. Their motto seems to be "they can't call everything, can they?"
- Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry lead the goon parade. It's bad enough they're actually skilled players, but they have to go that extra step and play like idiot meatheads when things don't go their way. Corey Perry loves running goalies and Ryan Getzlaf has as much sense as he does hair.
- Randy Carlyle whines and cries about the refs calling the Ducks for cheating and then congratulates his guys for "playing tough". There's also just something about him that screams "Evil Egg Dictator".
- I'll let this piece of the chat transcript between me and fellow writer Graham sum up reason number five:
Graham: You can drop the "Mighty", but they're still named after a Disney movie.What's next, the "Old Yellers"?J.J.: Nobody would be yelling "SHOOOOOOT" during power plays at least
Go Red Wings.