Time: 7:00 PM EST
Place: PPG Paints Arena
How to Watch: BSDET, ATTSN-PT, Sling TV
Radio: WXYT-97.1 FM
Penguins Blog: Pensburgh
The Red Wings return from the Christmas break tonight to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. This marks their first of three games with the Pens this season, with late season matchups in March and April to follow.
Detroit will be looking to get a fresh start after what was mostly a rough December, seeing them slide out of a playoff spot. The Wings had lost six games in a row before beating Tampa to enter the break. The Penguins on the other hand were 8-1-1 in their last ten games entering the break and had eyes on catching New Jersey for 2nd spot in the Metropolitan division behind Carolina. However Pittsburgh was thumped last night by the Islanders and will be looking for a bounce back effort against Detroit.
The objective is simple for Detroit, they need to start collecting points again. The recent skid has allowed a sizeable spread to open between them and a wildcard spot. They do maintain a handful of games in hand on the pack they are chasing, but those of course mean nothing if they continue to lose in regulation like they have been.
Detroit can see the light at the end of the tunnel for reinforcements amongst their forward group, which has struggled to score. Vrana was just assigned for a 3-game conditioning stint in Grand Rapids meaning his return is imminent. Likewise Zadina and Fabbri are skating with the team in practice meaning they are likely getting close to a return.
But the lineup is largely unchanged from their last contest before Christmas. Larkin is saddled between Rasmussen and Perron as that line looks to continue building their budding chemistry. Another outing like they had against Tampa would be very welcome for a team struggling to produce offense.
Defensively, the Chiarot and Seider pairing appears to remain tethered together exiting the break. Perhaps a few days away for them was sorely needed as they have not been what what was hoped for to start the season for the team’s top pair. Lalonde remains committed to making it work though, and hopefully he’s right as what happens in the remaining 50 games of the season will largely swing on their success.
For the Penguins, Crosby is showing age is just a number as he is amongst the top 10 scorers this season with 43 points thus far. That includes 11 points in 11 games in December. Similar to the night Detroit played Washington just over a week ago, they will be looking to fend off history. Instead of keeping Ovechkin from passing Gordie Howe on the all-time goals list, they will be trying to keep Malkin from stepping past Fedorov as the second highest point-scoring Russian of all time. The two are currently tied with 1179 points.
The Penguins roster a solid, while not spectacular, supporting cast behind their two longest mainstays. The likes of Guentzel, Rakell, Rust, and Zucker all have at least 21 points this season, with Guentzel leading them all with 33 points, which ties him with Malkin for second on the team.
On the back end Kris Letang surprised everyone when he returned to the lineup just two weeks after suffering a stroke. He has 4 points in the last 5 games, looking no worse for wear. He remains Pittsburgh’s most dangerous threat on defense with 16 points in 27 games.
In goal, Husso is expected to start and proceed with carrying the load for Detroit until either Nedeljkovic gets his issues sorted out or he is usurped by Hellberg. For Pittsburgh, after a difficult night against the Islanders, Jarry who was likely scheduled for a night off anyway, will likely make way for DeSmith.