PENGUINS (22-10-1) at RED WINGS (15-9-9)
WHEN: December 14, 2013 - 7:00 p.m. | WHERE: Joe Louis Arena
Last 10: Pittsburgh 7-2-1; Detroit 5-3-2
Season series: This is the first of three games. The teams haven't played each other in the regular season since the Detroit Red Wings won 4-1 at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 13, 2011. They met in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, with each winning a championship.
Big story: The teams will play each other as members of the new Eastern Conference conference for the first time. The Red Wings are in the Atlantic Division and the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.
Penguins: Despite injuries to three of its top defensemen (Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi), Pittsburgh has maintained its lead atop the Metropolitan. The Eastern Conference-leading offense (3.00 goals per game) and resilient defense (2.21 goals allowed per game, fourth in the NHL) has the Penguins eight points ahead of the Washington Capitals. Pittsburgh, which defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-2 at home Friday, has started December 4-1-0.
"Obviously we're missing great players," rookie defenseman Olli Maatta said. "But when it happens, there's nothing we can do about it right now. All we can do is just everybody has to step up a little bit and everybody's done it pretty well and we just have to keep doing what we've done so far."
The Penguins will play without forward James Neal, who is serving a suspension. Pittsburgh is 8-7-1 on the road but has won three of its past four.
Red Wings: Detroit has lost its past three games, against divisional opponents, and its past two via shootout. Its 2-1 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday left the teams tied for third place in the Atlantic, seven points behind the first-place Boston Bruins. The Red Wings are 6-3-2 since losing seven straight games.
Detroit's 14th ranked defense has improved. The Red Wings have allowed two or fewer regulation goals in their past four games.
Who's hot: Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL with 44 points, has scored at least one point in 13 of his past 16 games. Forward Evgeni Malkin's 10-game point streak was snapped against New Jersey. Forward Chris Kunitz leads Pittsburgh with 17 goals and has scored six in his past seven games. … Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk has scored three points in his past three games (two goals, one assist). Forward Johan Franzen has three assists in his past two games.
Injury report: Scuderi (broken ankle) and forward Tanner Glass (broken hand) are expected to return to practice in the next 3-5 days, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said on Thursday. Orpik (concussion) and Martin (broken leg), and forwards Beau Bennett (wrist/hand) and Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) are out. … Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard (knee) is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with an MCL sprain sustained during practice Wednesday. Forwards Henrik Zetterberg (back), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Stephen Weiss (groin), and defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) are out.