RED WINGS (33-15-1) at CANADIENS (18-21-9)
TV: NBCSP (HD), RDS (HD), TSN
Detroit 8-2-0; Montreal 4-4-2
This is the only meeting of the season between the Red Wings and Canadiens. They last met on Dec. 10, 2010, with Jimmy Howard
stopping 36 shots as Detroit beat Montreal 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena. Pavel Datsyuk
had the decisive goal and added an assist.
These Original Six rivals have the Wednesday night spotlight to themselves. They're the only game in the NHL on the day before the All-Star break officially begins, and they'll have a national television audience watching. Detroit has won seven in a row and is guaranteed to enter the break in the Presidents' Trophy lead as the team with the most points, but carries just a .500 record (13-13-0) on the road.
Road wins are starting to come more frequently for Detroit, which has taken three of its last four away from the Joe, but the Red Wings haven't won a road game in regulation since Jan. 3. Of course, when you're still building on a franchise-record win streak at home, that's less of a concern. The Wings made it 17 straight on Monday with a 3-1 victory over one of their pursuers in the Western Conference standings, the Central Division-rival Blues. After Scott Nichol opened the scoring for St. Louis, Datsyuk's power-play goal 51 seconds into the middle period got Detroit even, then Johan Franzen
and Niklas Kronwall
"We have such a calm team," said Jimmy Howard
, who made 21 saves for his League-leading 30th win. "Nothing seems to rattle us."
This begins a stretch in which Montreal plays five of its next six games at home and could very well determine in which direction the Canadiens head over the final months. They're in much greater danger of dropping into last in the Eastern Conference at the moment than they are positioned to chase a playoff spot, but there's still time to change that if they can build off a 3-1 win in Toronto on Saturday night. With the game even in the third period, rookie defenseman Raphael Diaz
and second-year forward Lars Eller
scored and Carey Price
turned in a strong overall effort with 32 saves.
"There's still a light at the end there," Eller said. "There are more than 30 games to go and we still have a lot of faith in this locker-room. We'll play one game at a time and see what happens."
Kronwall has goals in consecutive games for the Red Wings. Howard has won six straight, allowing just nine goals over that span and posting a .942 save percentage. … Eller has goals in consecutive games for the Canadiens. Erik Cole
has 1 goal and 5 assists over the last four games.
Detroit forward Patrick Eaves
is on injured reserve as he recovers from jaw surgery. … Montreal captain Brian Gionta
is back on injured reserve following right biceps surgery. Forward Ryan White
, who hasn't played yet this season due to sports hernia surgery, has been skating. Defenseman Andrei Markov
is also awaiting his season debut as he rehabs knee surgery.
Kronwall's next goal will set a new career high -- the first-round pick of the Red Wings in the 2000 Entry Draft also scored 11 goals last season in 77 games. … Scott Gomez
skated a season-high 25 shifts for the Canadiens on Saturday in his fifth game back from injury. Gomez has 6 assists in 18 games this season.
More than half of Detroit's 11 games so far in January have required overtime or a shootout to decide, two others were one-goal affairs ending in regulation, and Monday's victory over St. Louis was a one-goal game until Kronwall scored on a power play with 3:03 remaining.
"It's the League now," coach Mike Babcock said in the Detroit Free Press. "They're all 3-1 or 3-2 every night. If the other team gets to three first, you're probably not going to win."