PITTSBURGH — The Detroit Red Wings don’t plan any lineup changes for their game Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center, and who can blame them for not messing with success?
The Red Wings go into their only meeting of the season against Pittsburgh with nine victories in 11 games and 13 in 17. They have outscored their opponents 65-33 in the past 17 contests. Detroit was 5-5-1 going into its 5-0 win against Anaheim on Nov. 5, but now is 18-9-1.
The Red Wings – 6-7 away from Joe Louis Arena – would appear to be catching the Penguins at an opportune time. Pittsburgh will be missing star Sidney Crosby (concussion-related symptoms) for a third consecutive game, and centers Jordan Staal (lower body injury) and Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed problem) will be game-time decisions.
The Penguins already were without defensemen Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Robert Bortuzzo (concussions) and Ben Lovejoy (wrist), plus forward Richard Park (broken foot).
Only 10 days ago, the Penguins were putting a close-to-healthy lineup on the ice for the first time this season – even if it was missing Letang, one of the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen. Now, they are as depleted as they have been since coach Dan Bylsma was hired nearly three years ago.
“Obviously, we’d like Sid to be playing,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “As a League, you want him to be playing. When you’re playing another team, you want their best goalie, you want their best players. You want to find out if you’re any good or not. But, in saying that, you also want points.”
Pittsburgh has won its last two at home against the Red Wings and swept a two-game season series against them in 2010-11. This is the first season since 2007-08 the teams won’t play each other at least twice; they met in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009, with each franchise winning once.
“it’s one of those teams that you love to play against,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s a great matchup. The games are high intensity.”
Here is the Red Wings’ likely lineup:
Johan Franzen – Pavel Datsyuk – Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula – Henrik Zetterberg – Jiri Hudler
Darren Helm – Danny Cleary – Chris Conner
Drew Miller – Justin Abdelkader – Tomas Holmstrom
Nicklas Lidstrom – Ian White
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Brad Stuart – Jakub Kindl
Jimmy Howard (17-6-1) will oppose Marc-Andre Fleury (15-6-2) in net. Former Penguins goalie Ty Conklin will be the backup.
Howard is 1-0-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average in three career starts against Pittsburgh. Fleury is 4-4 with a 2.72 goals-against average in regular-season matchups against the Red Wings.