Time: 7:30pm ET
Place: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit MI
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket, 1270 AM
Maple Leafs blog: Pension Plan Puppets
Well, that was quite a long break. The last time we saw the Red Wings play was a 3-2 victory over Edmonton on January 22nd that turned out to be the final nail in Peter Chiarelli’s time as GM in Edmonton. Tonight the Red Wings return to the ice to begin the unofficial second half of their season against one of the best teams in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fittingly, the Red Wings will also retire Red Kelly’s number tonight and finally send #4 to join rest of the Red Wings legends.
This will be the first night back in action since before the All Star break for the Maple Leafs as well. It will also be the first game with Toronto for Jake Muzzin since being traded early this week from Los Angeles. Muzzin figures to pair up nicely with Morgan Rielly on Toronto’s top pairing and should improve a somewhat already stingy defense while freeing up Rielly to be even more active offensively. Up front for Toronto there is not much else that can be said at this point. While they are not quite as dangerous an offense as league leading Tampa Bay, John Tavares (30G/24A), Mitch Marner (20G/42A) and Auston Matthews (21G/22A in 35 games) lead a talented and deep forward group that has all but two players (Frederik Gauthier and William Nylander) with at least 10 points. In net, Frederik Andersen has put up solid numbers, spearheaded by a .923 save percentage. They are dangerous everywhere on the ice, will make teams pay for mistakes and very tough to break down defensively.
On the ice, there will be some changes to the lineup since we last saw the Red Wings in action. As I am sure everyone is aware of by now, Filip Hronek and Michael Rasmussen are both down in Grand Rapids. Hronek because of the log jam on the blue line right now and Rasmussen for a conditioning stint as he works back from injury. Additionally, Tyler Bertuzzi will be out of the lineup this weekend as he apparently is still suffering from the effects of the injury he suffered against Edmonton. In his place Martin Frk will muster into the lineup for the first time in 2019, hopefully hungry and looking to score. Of course the story of the first half of the season was the play of Dylan Larkin. More nights than not, he has arguably been the best player in red on the ice and it will be interesting to see how he returns to the ice after eight days off to rest, relax and reflect on what has been quite the roller coaster first 51 games of the Red Wings 2018-19 season.
Coming into the game tonight the Red Wings find themselves just two points out of the league basement despite some inspiring play in the month of November that saw them only four points out of a playoff spot. This team is getting better and the rest of this season will be extremely important for their continued development, and it all starts back up again tonight against one of the best in the league.