Coming in to play tonight, the Blues currently sit 1 point ahead of the Wings for second in the division, 2 points behind the Blackhawks for the outright division (and conference lead). They've gone 15-3-4 since Ken Hitchcock took over from Davis Payne, including 7-1-1 in their last 9.
There's no surprise to how they've gotten here: defense and goaltending. The Blues currently rank 3rd in the NHL in goals against/game, and they give up the fewest shots of any team in the NHL. Brian Elliott has the best GAA in the league at 1.55, a SV% of .943 and 4 shutouts.
I think it goes without saying that tonight's game is a huge measuring stick for the Wings. We're used to other teams getting up for the Wings, but it's Detroit that needs to rise up and prove they're the better team. After all, the Blues have won the last 3 meetings, including both earlier this year. That kind of domination isn't normally seen in these parts, but I think it's time we recognized the greatness of the team down Missouri way and give them the respect and credit they deserve.
Can the Wings slow this Blues juggernaut and once again establish themselves as the team to beat in the division? It's going to take a gargantuan effort combined with a strict attention to detail and perfect execution in order to overcome a great St Louis team that is continuing to play as good as they have in a long time.
St. Louis Game Time is your Blues SB Nation blog. Puck drop is a little after 7:30 PM ET.
The Expected Line Up
Johan Franzen -- Pavel Datsyuk -- Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Jiri Hudler
Danny Cleary -- Darren Helm -- Drew Miller
Cory Emmerton -- Justin Abdelkader -- Joakim Andersson
Nicklas Lidstrom -- Ian White
Brad Stuart -- Niklas Kronwall
Jonathan Ericsson - Mike Commodore/Jakub Kindl
Injuries: Jan Mursak (ankle), Patrick Eaves (jaw), Chris Conner (hand), and Tomas Holmstrom (groin)
|RED WINGS||HOW THEY MATCH UP||BLUES|
|2212-1 (45 pts)||Record||21-10-4 (46 pts)|
|3.26 (5th)||Goals Per Game||2.63 (17th)|
|2.26 (5th)||Goals Against Per Game||2.09 (3rd)|
|20.0% (5th)||Power Play %||11.9% (30th)|
|81.5% (17th)||Penalty Kill %||82.0% (16th)|
|Johan Franzen (14 goals)||Goal Leader||Alex Steen (12 goals)|
|Pavel Datsyuk (36 points)||Points Leader||David Backes (24 points)|
- The Red Wings are 112-108-37-7 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Blues.
- The Wings have gotten a little away from their streakiness earlier this season, and haven't enjoyed a proper winning streak in ALMOST TWO WEEKS! Time to change that.
- The Blues have beaten the Wings in both of their earlier meetings this season, but have not faced Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings have the NHL's best home record and currently enjoy a 10-game home winning streak.
- If there's one area where the Wings can take advantage of the Blues, it's on special teams, as the Blues' 30th-ranked power play doesn't scare anyone right now, and their 16th-ranked PK is simply mediocre. Losing the special teams battle is unacceptable.
- Both teams come into the game a little banged up. Holmstrom will be out for 7-10 days after sustaining a groin injury last night against Nashville, while the Blues will be without Vladimir Sobotka, Kent Huskins, B.J. Crombeed and Andy McDonald. TJ Oshie is questionable for St Louis.
Prediction: Both teams played last night, so we could be watching two tired teams go at it. This is the first of two meetings in the next 5 days between these clubs, and the Wings will be looking to avenge both earlier defeats. The Wings have last change and won't allow St Louis to impose their gameplan on the Wings, and take a very close 3-2 victory. Pavel Datsyuk is your player of the game.