DETROIT – The Red Wings will be without Pavel Datsyuk, Erik Cole and Tomas Jurco when they host the Boston Bruins in an important Atlantic Division clash at Joe Louis Arena tonight.
Centers Riley Sheahan and Joakim Andersson will be in the lineup, though there was some concern Thursday morning over their availability.
Sheahan had to pass a concussion test this afternoon – which he did – before he was cleared to play, coach Mike Babcock said. Andersson became a first-time father this morning when his girlfriend Lisa gave birth to the couple’s first child, Nellie Edith Lily. He is expected to be in the lineup. And forward Drew Miller, who needed 60 stitches to close two gruesome lacerations to his face Tuesday, will also suit up against the Bruins.
“Datsyuk’s unavailable,” Babcock said. “Sheahan’s gotta pass the test. Miller’s available. Jurco’s out. Andy’s (girlfriend) had a baby girl, proud dad I assume he’s ready to go at game time.”
Datsyuk has missed six of the last eight games with a lower-body injury that he said flared up in Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders.
“I feel much better. It’s not ready to go tonight,” Datsyuk said. “It’s kind of old injury.”
The Wings’ top-line center, second in team scoring with 24 goals and 60 points in 59 games, said he hopes to play Saturday in Minnesota.
According to Babcock, Jurco, who participated in Thursday’s morning skate, is day to day with an upper-body injury.
The importance of tonight’s contest can’t be overstated.
The Wings are in third place with just two points separating them from the surging Bruins, who have won their last three games. The Ottawa Senators, who are five points behind Detroit, host Tampa Bay tonight.
Starting on time has been the Wings’ Achilles heel this season. A fast start will be necessary, especially tonight against a physically bruising Bruins squad.
“I think it always seems like we get off to bad starts,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We’re tentative, we’re putting pucks on wall and that’s where they want them. We’re not making plays. I think we’ve just got to focus on getting back to pucks, talking and communicating and getting off to better starts. If I remember right, the times we’ve played poorly against these guys they’ve kind of got off to a lead right away, taken control of the game and we just never could recover.”
Against the Wings, the Bruins have scored first in seven of the past eight meetings – including all four previous games this season – going back to the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring. In the last three games Boston has struck in the opening five minutes.
Since moving to the East prior to 2013-14, the Red Wings have gone 4-3-1 in the regular season against the Bruins, including a 1-2-1 mark this season.
“They’re a good team but I think we’re a faster team,” defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. “If we don’t play faster we really feed into what they want. We need to pick up the pace to a high level from the start here and not start the game as we want to play it in the second or third period.”