WHEN: Jan. 18, 2011 - 7:00 pm | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center WATCH: FSN | LISTEN:Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Detroit Red Wings Overall: 28-11-6-62 Home: 14-5-4-32 Road: 14-6-2-30
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Detroit Red Wings
RW - #17 12 Goals 3 Assists 15 Points
• Inked a one-year contract with the Wings on Aug. 4, 2009, and went on to sign a one-year extension with the team on July 7, 2010.
• The former first-round draft pick (No. 29 overall by Ottawa in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft) has found a niche in Detroit as a fourth-line role player and penalty killer.
• Has already matched his goal output from last season that took him 65 games to reach; is on pace to smash his personal best of 20 tallies set in his rookie season in 2005-06.
C - #93 19 Goals 15 Assists 34 Points
• A late bloomer who didn’t get drafted until age 24, Franzen tends to flourish come playoff time, as evidenced by his 31 goals and 59 points in 51 postseason games over the past three seasons.
• Nicknamed “Mule” his rookie season by former Wings captain Steve Yzerman for his imposing 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame.
• Not only does the power forward have impressive size, but he also has a dangerous shot; which has found the back of the net a team-leading 19 times.
D - #55 8 goals 14 assists
• Has been paired with fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line for the majority of this season after playing with Brad Stuart the past few seasons.
• The defenseman, one of the best open-ice hitters in the league, has yet to play a full 82-game NHL season, playing in just 45 contests last year due to a troublesome knee.
• His eight goals – including the OT game winner on Dec. 27 that got Chris Osgood his 400th career win – mark a new career-high for the 30-year-old blueliner, topping his previous personal best of seven set in 2007-08 through 65 games.
It’s an all-too-familiar situation for the Detroit Red Wings, who visit CONSOL Energy Center on Tuesday to take on the Penguins. Much like last season, Detroit’s lineup has been greatly depleted due to an influx of injuries to key players. But also like last year, when they went on a 13-3-2 run after the Olympic break to force their way into the playoffs, they’re continuing to find ways to win. Detroit ranks third overall in the league with 62 points, going 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.
Despite the losses of Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand), Dan Cleary (broken ankle), Mike Modano (lacerated wrist) and Tomas Holmstrom (broken hand) up top, Detroit’s 3.44 goals-per game average ranks first in the league. A large part of that can be attributed to Henrik Zetterberg, who has shouldered much of the offensive load.
Zetterberg has been the epitome of consistency, quietly being one of the league’s point leaders all season with his 50 points ranking seventh and his 34 assists tied for second. Fellow Swede Johan Franzen is not only scoring goals for Detroit (he has 19 already on the season) but the player they call “Mule” has been throwing his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame around a lot more than usual with 79 hits.
Several young role players have also stepped up offensively. Patrick Eaves, usually counted on for energetic play in a fourth-line role, has chipped in 12 goals. The speedy Darren Helm is also typically used in the same type of role, but he has 10 points (2G-8A) in his last nine games.
Their defense suffered a huge blow with the loss of Brad Stuart to a broken jaw on Jan. 7. Stuart has quietly been the Wings’ most dependable blueliner, being just one of three players to skate in all 82 games last season. Stuart, a former No. 3 overall draft pick by San Jose in 1996, is one of Detroit’s best penalty killers, leading the team with 3:26 shorthanded time on ice while his 80 blocked shots are still tops on the team and his 95 hits rank second.
But the ageless Nicklas Lidstrom is still the heart and soul of Detroit’s blue line. The 40-year-old, in his 19th NHL season, is on pace to post the best offensive numbers of his career. He leads all NHL defensemen with 42 points (11G-31A) while averaging 23:50 of ice time per game, 4:17 of that on the man-advantage and 3:15 of that shorthanded. His rocket of a shot is a crucial part of Detroit’s power play, which ranks fourth in the league.
Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard suffered a bruised knee on Jan. 14 versus Columbus when a puck snuck underneath his pad and will not play Tuesday. With Chris Osgood sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks after sports hernia surgery, Detroit has called up Joey MacDonald and Thomas McCollum from the American Hockey League. MacDonald, 30, went 14-26-6 with the New York Islanders in 2008-09, but has played in just 10 NHL games since. McCollum has yet to see action in an NHL game.
Detroit sits just two points ahead of Pittsburgh in the overall league standings. The two teams have the same number of wins (28), but the Wings have lost two less games than the Penguins, ranking third overall while Pittsburgh ranks fourth.
This is the first of two meetings in a home-and-home series between the teams, with this game marking the Wings’ first regular-season contest at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins will travel to Joe Louis Arena on March 21 to close out the games.
Detroit and Pittsburgh faced off in the preseason in a home-and-home series. Detroit traveled to Pittsburgh’s brand-new arena for a preseason match on Sep. 22, 2010, with the Penguins earning a 5-1 victory thanks to goals from Mike Comrie, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Craig (2) and Brett Sterling.
The Penguins won Oct. 3 by a score of 5-2 at Joe Louis Arena, with Comrie scoring twice and Evgeni Malkin tallying a goal and three assists. Chris Kunitz and Alex Goligoski each got a goal and an assist.
The two teams faced off in a home-and-home series during the regular season last year as well. The Penguins earned a 2-1 shootout victory on Jan. 31, 2010, with Sidney Crosby scoring the tying goal in regulation before he and Malkin tallied in the shootout. In the teams’ second meeting on March 22, 2010, Henrik Zetterberg scored twice to give Detroit a 3-1 win.
Two players who have posted impressive numbers against Detroit in the regular season are Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz. Cooke has 16 points (7G-9A) in 36 games played against the Wings, while Kunitz has nine points (4G-5A) in 17 games played.
Capitalize on the Power Play: The Wings lost their best penalty killer when defenseman Brad Stuart suffered a broken jaw on Jan. 7 that will keep him sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks. In addition, Detroit’s strongest penalty killers up top – primarily Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm and Drew Miller – have been logging a lot more even-strength ice time than usual with the loss of several key forwards. The Penguins need to capitalize on the Wings’ shorthanded weaknesses.
Keep Them Contained: The Wings have prided themselves on their recent ability to keep their opponents hemmed in their own zones. The Penguins, led by players like Chris Conner, have been doing this to their opponents all season, and they’ll need to give the Wings a taste of their own medicine on Tuesday. Players like Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski have been forced to log more minutes than they would prefer with the injury to Brad Stuart, and despite calling up Tomas Tatar and Jan Mursak, their forwards have been eating up more minutes as well.
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR) F Sidney Crosby, mild concussion, (indefinitely) F Eric Godard, eye (IR)
C Mike Modano, severed tendon in right wrist (March) D Brad Stuart, broken jaw (early March) G Chris Osgood, sports hernia surgery (late February/early March) RW Tomas Holmstrom, broken hand (late February) C Pavel Datysuk, broken right hand (early February) RW Dan Cleary, fractured left ankle (early February) G Jimmy Howard, bruised knee (day-to-day)
Three tied with (1)
Jordan Staal - In just his seventh game of the season after missing the first 39 contests of the 2010-11 campaign due to injury, Staal scored the game-winning goal and added an assist to power the Penguins past Boston on Jan. 15. That performance came off the heels of a three-point effort by the Penguins center on Jan. 12 against Montreal, where he tallied a goal and two helpers in Pittsburgh’s 5-2 victory. Staal is performing admirably in the stead of Sidney Crosby, already averaging 19:01 of ice time per game.
Drew Miller - After a slow first half of the season, Miller – who is usually depended on for his defensive play and penalty killing – has found his offensive game at a crucial time. The forward had a goal, two assists and earned a plus-4 rating in the Wings’ 6-5 shootout victory over Columbus on Jan. 15 after scoring the night before in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets. He’s now riding a three-game point streak that has seen him tally five of his 11 total points so far this season. Miller, 26, is the younger brother of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.