RED WINGS (34-16-1) at CANUCKS (31-15-4)
TV: FS-D, SNET-P (HD)
Last 10: Detroit 8-2-0; Vancouver 7-2-1.
Season Series: This will be the third of four meetings between Detroit and Vancouver, with the season series split at one win apiece. Both teams held serve on their home ice, with the Red Wings winning 2-0 on Oct. 13 at Joe Louis Arena and the Canucks striking back with a 4-2 decision on Dec. 21 at Rogers Arena.
Big Story: It's a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference standings and possible preview of one enticing potential playoff series. Thanks to the San Jose Sharks ousting the Red Wings in each of the past two postseasons and the Chicago Blackhawks taking care of the Canucks in both 2009 and 2010, hockey fans haven't gotten a chance to see what a playoff series between these two highly-skilled squads would turn out like. Odds are it would be fast-paced, hard-hitting, exciting hockey from one end of the ice to the other for seven games.
That's how this one will likely be, even though Detroit is still working its way through a season-long slog during road games. The Wings won 3-1 on Tuesday night in Calgary despite a sluggish start and that makes them just 14-14-0 away from Joe Louis. However, they're trending up in road games, with a 6-4-0 record in their last 10 on enemy ice.
Red Wings: Jiri Hudler's goal against the Flames on Tuesday night was the eventual game-winner and his 16th of the season, as he continues to rebound strongly from a disappointing season a year ago. It also helped the Wings further erase the ugly 7-2 loss they endured in their last game prior to the All-Star break. Speaking of which, Detroit coach Mike Babcock gave his All-Star participants -- goalie Jimmy Howard and center Pavel Datsyuk -- a day off from practice on Wednesday in Vancouver. Meanwhile, third-line forward Danny Cleary sat out with an undisclosed "minor" injury. Otherwise, Detroit is pretty healthy and continuing to get good production from the bottom six forward group -- including goals against Calgary from Drew Miller (third line, left wing) and Cory Emmerton (left wing, fourth line).
"It's important, obviously, anytime you've got young guys playing," Babcock told the team's web site. "I thought Emmerton, [Justin Abdelkader] and [Jan Mursak] were a real good line for us, made a real nice play on the entry there, and then so did Cleary, [Darren Helm] and Miller for two big goals from the third and fourth line to win you the game."
Canucks: Any time Vancouver gets a victory against the hated Chicago Blackhawks, it's a thrill -- especially when the Canucks pull it off in overtime of a well-played game. That's exactly what happened on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena, when Daniel Sedin's redirect of a perfectly-placed pass by his brother Henrik ended a nail-biter for both teams with a 3-2 Vancouver win. The goal also moved Daniel into sole possession of the top spot all-time in team history for overtime goals scored (10). Cory Schneider, who'd been torched by the Hawks in an earlier game at Rogers Arena, got an unexpected start and played brilliantly for the win -- making 37saves, including several highlight-worthy stops to thwart prime Chicago scoring opportunities. Cody Hodgson remained red hot with a goal to give him 14 on the season and four in the last five games.
"You can tell he's got a lot in his head," Daniel Sedin was quoted saying of Hodgson on the team's web site. "He might not be the best skater out there and the strongest guy, but he's smart."
Who's Hot: Hudler has scored three goals in Detroit's past two games, including his second game-winner of the season on Tuesday night in Calgary; Daniel Sedin has 4 goals and 1 assist in the past five games for the Canucks, while Vancouver's David Booth had scored in three straight games prior to Tuesday's victory against Chicago.
Injury Report: Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw) is on injured reserve, while Cleary is nursing a minor undisclosed injury. Tomas Holmstrom expects to play after side-effects from a pain-relieving substance injected into his knees during the All Star break kept him out on Tuesday.
Stat Pack: Detroit is 68-3-4 the last 75 times it has scored four or more goals in a game, while the goal for Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi will be the 300th of his career; Vancouver has outscored opponents 54-30 in the first period and holds a League-best 27-6-1 record when scoring the first goal.
Puck Drop: Howard has racked up 31 wins and is on pace to prevail in 49 this season, which would break Martin Brodeur's NHL record of 48.