Time: 12:30 PM EST
Place: Little Caesars Arena
TV: BSDETX, ATTSN-PT
Radio: WXYT-97.1 FM
Penguins Blog: Pensburgh
Following a tough 5-2 loss to the Panthers on Thursday, the Red Wings return to Little Caesars for their home ice finale today. They will finish the season with three games on the road between two in New Jersey and one in Toronto. Their opponent today are the playoff bound Pittsburgh Penguins.
Fans may recall the last matchup between these clubs marked arguably the biggest black eye on the season for Detroit. The Pens thumped the Wings with a whopping 11-2 score, which quickly prompted many Wings fans to again ask if changes behind the bench were needed even before getting to the offseason. That game was less than a month ago, with the heat subsiding at least slightly since then. The team has still lost plenty of games and given up 46 goals in 12 games since, but none have been as ugly and garnered national attention like that game.
The Wings will be counting on the budding chemistry of the Vrana, Suter, Zadina line to help the shoulder the load, that is assuming Zadina is healthy after being a late scratch Thursday. Joe Veleno will continue to try and fill the role of top line pivot between Bertuzzi and Raymond. The Wings could again go with 11 forwards based on who’s currently on the roster. On defense, Detroit is likely to trot out the same pairings they have had consistently lately, with the possibility that Oesterle mixes in as a 7th defenseman. In goal, after two difficult starts against Florida in the same week, Nedeljkovic may be given a break with Greiss again serving as the starter. But at some point it would seem the Wings will want to give Hellberg a look before the season closes.
For Pittsburgh, Crosby and Guentzel have been doing a lot of damage for them of late. Crosby looks several years younger this season, and Guentzel has a massive 10 points in his last 5 games on Crosby’s wing, including 7 goals. Guentzel has now reached 40 goals on the season. Evgeni Malkin appears primed to return to the Pens lineup today giving them close to a fully healthy roster in the season’s final week. On the blue line for Pittburgh, Kris Letang could potentially finish off a career year for production. He is currently only three points shy of his career best 67 points back in the Pens Cup winning season of 2015-16. The one place Pittsburgh isn’t back to full health yet is in net, where Tristan Jarry is still nursing an injury. So one of DeSmith or Domingue will get the start today.
Detroit has the chance to jump on a Pittsburgh team in the midst of a bit of a slide. They suddenly are looking at the possibility of falling to the final wildcard spot if Washington continues to gain on them. The Caps are only two points back with a game in hand. So Detroit should expect an inspired performance from Pittsburgh as they try to round into playoff form.