Time: 10:00pm ET
Place: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas NV
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket, 1270 AM
New York giveth and St. Louis taketh away. After winning two games in a row against two of the three teams in the Empire State where they only gave up a total of three goals, the Red Wings fell to their old rivals from the Show Me State by a score of 5-2. It was not all terrible though, Taro Hirose maintained his point per game pace as he collected the primary assist on the first of two Tomas Vanek goals and logged the fourth most ice time amongst the forwards in just his second career NHL game. He looked comfortable on the ice with and without the puck on his stick and has shown some passing skill early on. Of course, it is just his second game and the real test will begin when he is no longer an unknown commodity within the NHL but so far so good for the undrafted free agent out of Michigan State. Tonight the Red Wings take to Sin City to duel with the not quite as good as last year but still pretty good Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas enters the fray tonight fresh off of a 5-0 drumming of the Winnipeg Jets and winners of their last four games. They currently sit solidly in third place in the Pacific Division with 89 points but are still within striking distance place of second place San Jose so I would expect nothing but their A game from them tonight.
Offensively, Vegas is very balanced and deep. Mark Stone officially leads the team with 32 goals but a lot of those came before he was traded from Ottawa to Vegas. Jonathan Marchessault (24), William Karlsson (22) and Max Pacioretty (22) round out the leading scorers for the Knights. Beyond those four Paul Stastny (10G/27A), Reilly Smith (17/33), Cody Eakin (19/18) and Alex Tuch (19/30) give them nine players in double digits for goals with four being over 20 and two more at 19. This is a solid forward group that can score in many ways and is not afraid to work for their tallies. On the back end, Shea Theodore and Nick Schmidt lead another solid group that may not stand out stats wise or be comparable to the blue line group in Nashville or Tampa Bay but they fit well with what Gerald Gallant wants from his defensemen and know how to get the puck up to forwards. Between the pipes is a man very familiar to Red Wings fans in Marc-Andre Fleury. Flower continues to carry the lion’s share for the Knights and continues to show why he was the first pick in the expansion draft for Vegas. In 59 games he has a 2.46GAA but more importantly a .914 save percentage. That said, it has been his backup Malcolm Subban in the pipes for the last three games (all wins) including the 5-0 shutout of Winnipeg on Thursday.
For Detroit it seems to be some more of the same. They used their final nonemergency recall to bring Matt Puempel up from Grand Rapids. While there is no official word I would assume he will be in the lineup as they would not use their last call up to sit him in the cabana. Mostly likely he will rotate in for Ryan Kuffner who has not seen much ice time since making his debut last weekend and has looked a little timid when he was on the ice. Jonathan Ericsson and Libor Sulak appear to still be too sick to play so expect to see the Brian Lashoof/Luke Witkowski third pairing to continue. Of course the other question for the Red Wings remains can Andreas Athanasiou (28) and/or Dylan Larkin (27) become the first Red Wing in a decade to score 30 goals in a season.
The Red Wings sit two points above the Los Angeles Kings and six above the Ottawa Senators in the race to lock up no worse than the fourth pick in the draft with LA holding a game in hand on Detroit and the easier schedule. This is going to be a tough one for the Wings to win but hopefully there will still be some fun things to watch.