Season series — The 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup champions meet for the first of two times this season. Since meeting in the Finals in consecutive years in ’08 and ’09, respectively, the two Eastern and Western conference powerhouses have developed quite the rivalry, which all but certainly will add to what should be a spectacle at Consol Energy Center.
"There are games on the schedule that we look at when we get it. We always look to see when the Red Wings might be coming to town or when we’re going there," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Regardless of what names are on the jerseys or not, we have plenty of history."
Big story — Aside from all that comes with recent Stanley Cup appearances, the two teams bring some of the league’s best talent at each position on the ice. For this go-around, however, barring the unexpected, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will be out of the lineup with concussion symptoms.
"He continues to get better," Bylsma said. "He won’t progress until he’s symptom free to go on the next state."
Red Wings — Depth has been the modus operandi of the Red Wings for over a decade and it’s surfacing this season as well. Even without Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings have been able to stay more than afloat, going 6-2-2 in their last 10 efforts. The impressive recent stretch has helped the Wings take control of the the Central Division and sit second in the West, trailing only Vancouver by two points. After a thrilling, 6-5, come-from-behind win against Columbus Saturday night, forward Darren Helm offered the following:
"We've got to find different ways, different players to step up each night," he said. "And that's what we've been doing so far."
Penguins — After beginning the month of January with a 1-3-1 record, the Pens have rebounded with two strong road wins against the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, respectively. With Crosby sidelined, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has held the fort between the pipes with consecutive strong outings, while Staal has quickly returned to game shape after missing the first three months of the season with various injuries. He has five points in his past two games, not to mention his defensive prowess. He’s excited to be back on the ice and looks forward to taking on the Wings.
"We don't see them a whole lot throughout the year but in the last couple of years we had some great battles," he said. "There's no question it's a big game for our team and we're excited about it. It's always a great test against a team like Detroit. It's a big challenge."
The Pens look to make it three in a row when they return for a home match against the Red Wings.
Who's hot — As mentioned, the Pens have been led by the strong play of Fleury and Staal, while Detroit has relied on Zetterberg, who has points in 12 of his past 13 games.
Injury report — Crosby remains out for the Penguins with a concussion, while Detroit , already without Datsyuk and Mike Modano, Danny Cleary, Brad Stuart and Tomas Holmstrom, faces uncertainty with goalie Jimmy Howard against the Penguins, who is questionable with a bruised knee.
Stat pack — Both the Pens and Red Wings have 14 wins at home and the road.
Puck drop — With a win, the Wings tie Vancouver for the best record in the League and West, while the Penguins can gain ground on division-leading Philadelphia, which has three more points in one fewer game.