RED WINGS (4-4-2) at OILERS (6-5-1)
-- Red Wings are 4-4-2, Oilers 5-4-1.
-- First meeting this year, on the heels of a four-game sweep by the Red Wings last year, one of Detroit's wins an 8-3 blowout Feb. 7 at the Joe.
-- It might be a perfect scenario for the Red Wings, a team with difficulty defending at 3.40 goals per game allowed, facing an Oilers team that has stalled offensively, carrying a scoreless streak of seven periods into the game, or 141 minutes and 25 seconds. All this comes after a 6-2-1 start that had them scoring nearly four goals a game.
Off-ice, concern over the spread of the H1N1 virus is growing. Edmonton has already been hit with the flu bug, with a lot of players affected in some form but only one, Ladislav Smid
, officially diagnosed with H1N1, though he's now back in the lineup. The Wings just came from Colorado, where backup goalie Peter Budaj has been diagnosed.
-- Tuesday night in Vancouver looked like a lot of other nights this year for the Wings. Seven minutes into the game, goalie Chris Osgood had already let two goals in and was pulled. What happened after that was more like the Wings of old. Four third-period goals, two by previously goal-less Pavel Datsyuk
, a go-ahead tally on the power play by Jason Williams and Detroit left GM Place with their first road win of the year, 5-4 over the Canucks.
"The way things have been going so far, we really couldn't catch a break," said Williams to the Detroit News. "We had the lead again in the third and they got a five-on-three and it's like, 'Oh, no, here we go again.' But it just goes to show, we were determined to win this game. Our focus right from the start was we have to get this win tonight."
-- It's been a precipitous fall these past three games. Nine games into the season, the Oilers were tied with the Blackhawks for best home record and even with the Flames for the league lead in goals scored.
Then it all came to a screeching halt. Three straight losses and two straight shutouts have the Oilers reeling. But the on-ice issues are only a side concern at the moment.
Late Tuesday night the Oilers confirmed that Smid was tested for H1N1 and came up positive. A team meeting was called Wednesday morning and preventative measures were discussed, because the vaccine is not yet available to the team.
-- Datsyuk's two goals in the third period Tuesday were his first of the season. On a roster that currently looks like the proverbial leaderboard in a golf tournament with all the minuses, Nicklas Lidstrom
leads the Wings with a plus-4.
-- Oilers defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky did not attend practice Wednesday, having left in the third period of the Colorado game with flu symptoms. Although not officially diagnosed, he is being treated for the H1N1 virus. Right winger Fernando Pisani (back) did attend practice and remained on the ice afterward.
Datsyuk missed practice Wednesday for an interesting reason -- he blocked a shot in addition to his two goals and one assist in Vancouver.
“I’m surprised myself, too," he told the Detroit Free Press. "Today, it’s hard to put on skates.”
-- Even though Osgood is 4-0-3 with a tie and a 2.42 GAA in his last seven games against Edmonton, Jimmy Howard
, who's 1-1-0 with a 2.15 in his last three games, will get the start Thursday. Howard has never faced the Oilers.
The Wings are averaging 45.5 shots per game over their last two after not breaking 37 in their previous eight. Overall, the Wings are 7-0-4 against Edmonton in their last 11 meetings.
-- The pressing question here is whether the Oilers can gather enough strength to protect their house against a Detroit team that seems to be coming around slowly.
-- Matt Mankiewich, NHL.com