Time: 7:30pm ET
Place: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit MI
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket, 1270 AM
Three to go. Despite another early lead blown by a dismal second period and yet another defenseman going down to injury, the Red Wings extended their near the end of the season winning streak to five games with a 6-3 win over Boston on Sunday.
The story of that game was easily the play of the top line, specifically Anthony Mantha who potted his first career hat trick and fell fight short of a Gordie Howe hat trick as well after one of the better cross ice saucer passes you will see into the wheelhouse of Filip Hronek. Late season hero Taro Hirose also decided to change it up a little and score himself a goal for once instead of just setting others up for them. It was not all fun and games as Danny DeKeyser joins Mike Green, Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson on the injury train with the dreaded “lower body injury”. As their umpteenth emergency call up in two weeks, the Red Wings have (finally) brought Joe Hicketts up. He will have a tall order in his first game back since beginning the season with the Red Wings as he and the rest of the team welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins into LCA tonight in the first half of a home and home before closing out the season on Saturday.
Pittsburgh comes in with a lot of the same names expected leading the way for them. Sidney Crosby leads them in points (94) and assists (61) and is second in goals (33) behind linemate Jake Guentzel (38). Evgeni Malkin (21G/50A…not expected in the lineup tonight though) and Phil Kessel (24/54) are right behind them, while pest Patrick Hornqvist (18/16) and “top liner not named Guentzel or Crosby” Brandon Rust (18/17) lead the secondary scoring from the forwards. On the blue line Kris Letang continues to carry the load, potting 16 and setting up 40 more but he has missed the last three games with an upper body injury and it is still in the air if he will play tonight or not. Brian Dumolin and Marcus Pettersson each have over 20 assists while playing some solid defense in their own end as they have had to pick up the slack while Letang and Olli Maatta have dealt with injury issues recently. In net Matt Murray (.920 save percentage, 2.69 GAA) and Casey DeSmith (.916, 2.75) have been solid all season long and kept Pittsburgh in the race despite some inconsistent play in front of them. This might not be the most talented Pittsburgh team we have ever seen but they have some good balance and will be a tough out in the playoffs…as long as they make it.
Speaking of which, Pittsburgh sits just three points clear of Columbus, four of Carolina and five of Montreal (Toronto sits in the same situation as well). While it would be extremely difficult for it to occur, the Red Wings are in a position where a sweep of the home and home with Pittsburgh could, baring the outcome of other games, where they are in a must win situation against the New York Rangers on Saturday or face either a Wild Card (which means either Washington or Tampa Bay in the first round) or missing the playoffs all together. That itself would be worth the price of admission to me. LGRW…time to continue playing the spoiler role!