Time: 7:00 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
TV: BSDET, BSSW+
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket/1270 AM
Stars Blog: Defending Big D
Tonight marks the big finale of the Wings long series with the Stars. Dallas holds the 2-1 advantage so far, but Detroit manhandled them in the last game, thanks largely to the efforts of Jakub Vrana and his 4 goal night.
Coming into the series we talked about Detroit treating this like a playoff series. Playoffs tend to be played a bit tighter than this series has to this point with some one sided affairs each way. But one part that has certainly felt like playoffs is the war of attrition, at least from Detroit’s perspective. Detroit’s players are dropping like flies with the latest kick to the stomach being the news that Dylan Larkin will miss the remainder of the season. At the same time the team finally conceded that Tyler Bertuzzi is also to miss the rest of the season, and may even require surgery. Robby Fabbri continues to be “day to day” with an injury that has held him out for 3 weeks now. That is taking away a lot of firepower from a team that didn’t have much to begin with.
The duo of Vrana and Filip Zadina got off to a good start trying to keep this squad respectable in games with the captain out. Vrana showed what he’s capable of when he’s at his best, torching the Stars for four goals. Zadina played the setup man to Vrana’s finishing talents. While they can’t be expected to stay quite that hot to close the season, it shows that Detroit do have some talent still in the lineup.
Dallas on the other hand is getting close to welcoming Tyler Seguin back in the next week or so. He’ll be a welcome addition as the Stars make their push for the playoffs to close the season. Dallas sits four points back of Nashville with three games in hand. They control their own destiny here but are running out of time. If the Stars miss the playoffs they will be the first team since the 2012-13 Devils to miss the playoffs the year after being in the Cup Final. Winning this game and closing out the series with 6 of 8 points is likely crucial for the Stars as they face Carolina and Tampa in 5 of their 9 remaining games afterwards.
Two players at opposite stages of their careers have led Dallas in this series with Detroit. Rookie phenom Jason Robertson has 4 points in the 3 games, while veteran Joe Pavelski has potted goals in each of the last two games. Breakout forward Roope Hintz has posted 3 points in 2 of the games while missing the Tuesday night game. The Stars will look for leader Jamie Benn to produce better than he has with only one assist in the series so far. Expect to see Dallas bring their best after that beating on Thursday.
For the Red Wings, they’ll just be hoping to continue to milk whatever they can from the remaining lineup. Given Thursday’s injury announcements it’s surprising that there hasn’t been callups of players like Givani Smith and Taro Hirose. But fans are anxiously awaiting the possible debut of Joseph Veleno who has returned from Europe and been assigned to the taxi squad. He is apparently fighting off a concussion, but should he get healthy, will get a chance to get his feet wet in the NHL.
A player to keep an eye on for the Wings will be Michael Rasmussen. The former 9th overall pick is starting to look better as he gets more games and minutes under his belt. Since being called back up near the beginning of March he has seen his minutes increase from the 11:00-13:00 range up to regularly being above 15:00 through April. Of course part of that is due to injuries up front for the team, but he’s not drowning with the increased role. The production is gradually coming, with him totalling 5 points in 12 games this month. Rasmussen is likely never going to be a terrific scorer, but if he can find a way to get to the 0.5 points/game production level he will have a long, steady career.
On the back end it’s time for Dennis Cholowski to get on the board. He’s supposed to be an offensive defenseman with some defensive deficiencies, but he has exactly 0 points in 9 games this year. That’s with second pair type minutes since being dropped into the lineup for the last 7 games. He’s been paired almost entirely with Hronek and you wonder if being paired with another offensive type defenseman has forced Cholowski to be more of the last man back on this pairing. I’m not sure if the tape backs that up, but it’s worth considering watching tonight’s game.
The Wings are hoping to even up this final series with Dallas at two apiece and land a body blow to the Stars playoff hopes. But we’ll see if they can pull another one off with this walking wounded group.