Last 10: Detroit 8-2-0; Pittsburgh 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the only meeting on the 2011-12 schedule between franchises that met in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 (Red Wings in six) and 2009 (Penguins in seven). The Penguins swept a pair of games last season, getting 32 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury in a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, and the decisive shootout goal from James Neal for a 5-4 victory in Detroit on March 21.
Big Story: Both games between these teams last season took place after the season-ending concussion suffered by Sidney Crosby. This is the type of game the superstar forward undoubtedly would have been extra geared up to play in, but unfortunately for the Consol Energy Center faithful, Sid the Kid will be just another spectator on Tuesday. After returning with a bang and putting up 12 points in eight games from Nov. 21-Dec. 5, Crosby will sit out his third in a row after experiencing some post-concussion symptoms following a number of hard hits in a game against Boston.
Red Wings: Heading out on the road for six of its next seven, Detroit comes off perhaps its most dominant effort of the season, a 7-1 rout Saturday night of a Winnipeg club that had been playing very strong hockey coming into Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings gave up the opening goal just 35 seconds in, but Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg connected to put them ahead after 20 minutes and they blew it open with a four-goal second. Jiri Hudler scored twice, five other Wings had multi-point efforts and 14 of their 18 skaters recorded at least one point.
"You do good things, good things will happen to you," Babcock said in the Detroit Free Press in regards to having so many players contribute offensively. "Keep doing the little things right, commit to the details, and it will all work out."
Penguins: Life goes on in Pittsburgh, as the team rebounded from a one-goal home loss to Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia in the first game Crosby missed by coming back from an early two-goal deficit to double up the Islanders 6-3 at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday. Neal tied the score 2-2 in the final minute of the first period and again at 3-3 with a power-play goal midway through the second. That started a run of four straight by the Penguins, as Pascal Dupuis tallied the go-ahead goal and Matt Cooke and Paul Martin added insurance in the third.
"That was a great response by our team," Neal said. "We knew they were going to come out and play the way they did. They've got skilled players and they're going to put the puck in the net. We know that. And the way we responded was great. Guys step up night in, night out. It was just a great team effort."
Who's Hot: Hudler has 4 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Red Wings. Valtteri Filppula has a goal and an assist in consecutive games, as well as 7 goals and 4 assists over the past eight games. Todd Bertuzzi has goals in two straight. Jimmy Howard has won nine of his last 10 starts and given up two goals or fewer in eight of them. … Neal has 3 goals in the Penguins' last two games. Evgeni Malkin has 1 goal and 3 assists over the same span.
Injury Report: Detroit forward Jan Mursak is getting closer to making his season debut after suffering a broken right ankle during the preseason, while forward Patrick Eaves is on injured reserve following surgery on his jaw. … In addition to Crosby, forward Jordan Staal is day-to-day with a lower-body injury that sidelined him Saturday on Long Island and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is expected to be out with concussion-like symptoms. Defensemen Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek are recovering from concussions -- Michalek practiced on Monday. Also out are forwards Richard Park (foot), Steve MacIntyre (undisclosed) and Dustin Jeffrey (knee) and defensemen Ben Lovejoy (wrist) and Brian Strait (elbow).
Stat Pack:Chris Conner, who played 68 games for the Penguins over the previous two seasons, scored his first goal in his fifth game with the Red Wings on Saturday. It was his 17th career goal and 42nd point in 144 games that also include parts of three seasons with the Stars.
Puck Drop: Pittsburgh fans are hardly the only ones disappointed Crosby won't be in the lineup Tuesday.
"We'd like Sid to be playing," Babcock told the Free Press. "I think you want all the good players playing. When you go play another team, you want their best goalie, you want their best player, and you want to find out if you're any good or not."
Babcock's ensuing quip was evidence he's well aware this is still a dangerous opponent even without its captain.
"They've also got a guy named Malkin," Babcock said. "He's pretty good, too."