Time: 7:00 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
TV: BSDET+, NBCSCH+, NHLN
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket/1270 AM
Panthers Blog: Second City Hockey
Tonight the Red Wings take on the Chicago Blackhawks in Detroit. This is the second of back to back matchups between the two and their 8th and final meeting for the season. The Red Wings are 2-4-1 in the season series but hoping to build off their dominant performance on Thursday night. The Wings looked like a revitalized team handling the Blackhawks from start to finish. Don’t look now but the Wings are on their first three game winning streak of the season.
The most noteworthy boxscore item from Thursday’s game was obviously Jakub Vrana scoring in his Wings debut in highlight fashion, coming out of the box for a breakaway pass. He’s still getting his feet wet as a Red Wing but that’s a good way to start. Richard Panik also made his debut wearing the winged wheel, grabbing 12:56 of ice time. Both players seemed to acclimate well in what was one of the team’s best performances of the year.
Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina in particular will want to build off of their two dominant performances. They were all over the ice, creating chances, and in some cases making terrific defensive plays. Zadina who has been showing signs all season that he’s going to be a very capable defensive forward when needed. A shining example of that was when near the end of a fairly long shift, he chased down a Hawks player near center ice and deftly knocked the puck off his stick, creating a quick rush the other way. The more often Zadina can make plays like that as well as put the puck in the net, the rest of the league will start to take notice. For Larkin’s part, after being understandably dejected when discussing the shipping out of long time friend and teammate Anthony Mantha, he channelled that into a strong performance, even by his standards. It was certainly a clear indicator of what made him the obvious choice for captain.
Michael Rasmussen is another player showing continued signs of improvement as he gets more games under his belt. He’s demonstrated that he’s figuring out how to use his size to his advantage like the Wings hoped when they drafted him.
On the back end it can’t go without mentioning that Troy Stetcher buried two goals on Thursday including a slapper from the half wall that Lankinen deflected straight up with his blocker before it trickled him behind him. Stetcher’s other goal may have been the prettiest for the Red Wings this season, receiving a crafty pass from DeKeyser before tucking it away behind the outstretched goaltender.
As for injuries, the Wings aren’t getting the reinforcements they were hoping for. Yesterday Blashill declared that Svechnikov and Fabbri would remain out, noting that Svechnikov should be day-to-day and Fabbri was at least skating. As a result of that, expect to see a similar 11 forward, 7 defenseman roster on the ice as last game. But keep an eye on the Game Day Updates post for any details released as the day goes on.
One player to watch tonight for the Wings is Dennis Cholowski. After having trouble getting onto the roster this year, the moves at the deadline cleared a way for him to get in the lineup. He’s played in all of the Wings last three games and his minutes have increased each game. The Wings appear to be throwing him right into the fire with almost all of his minutes coming alongside Filip Hronek. The two have formed a decent tandem totaling a 49.25 xGF% and a 49.53 CF% together (courtesy of Evolving-Hockey). Cholowski will need to make a mark on the powerplay if he wants to make a lasting impression for a permanent spot on the roster.
Between the pipes, Jonathan Bernier is the presumed starter at this point. Bernier looked to be back in fine form in his last game, his second start following his injury. He stopped 37 of 38 shots in that win over Carolina. The deadline came and went without Bernier moving, but he’s playing for his next contract, whether with the Wings or elsewhere, so he still has plenty left to play for as the season winds down.
For the Blackhawks, surprising rookie netminder Kevin Lankinen is the expected starter and continues to prove that he may well be for real and here to stay. He sports an impressive 2.79 GAA and .914 SV% behind a not great Blackhawks team. The Hawks will need him in top form as they are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games and are falling behind Nashville for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Chicago was a surprise team this year, supposed to be battling with Detroit for the bottom. They seem to be trending back that way but it’s been a valiant effort. Up front the Hawks have the known threats to look out for. Patrick Kane continues to show that he’s still among the league’s elite with 54 points on the season, trailing only McDavid and Draisaitl. Father Time is likely coming for him soon, but not this year. Chicago’s leading goal scorer and main beneficiary of Kane’s work is Alex DeBrincat with 21 goals so far this season. The Hawks have a few secondary players that can be a threat, among them Suter, Kubalik, and Strome. But it’s a big drop-off from the top line wingers, something Detroit is familiar with.
Detroit would love nothing more than to take this last meeting and sweep the final season series against their long-hated Original Six rivals. Can they duplicate their last performance, or will the quest for consistency leave them short?