Detroit Red Wings GameDay: vs. St. Louis
Update (12:59 PM): Helene St. James has an update on the three remaining injured Red Wings:
First, Nick Lidstrom (knee sprain) " is all but sure to play Sunday." Great news.
Second, Chris Chelios (bone chip, right leg) has not progressed and is still out indefinitely.
Third, Dan Cleary (broken jaw) has had his return moved up. Now they're looking to have him back by the end of March, which is a tad ahead of schedule. The Wings play on the 28th (Blues) and the 30th (Predators). Cleary could be back for either or both of those games, including the three in April. - Matt
Update (10:15 AM): OklahomaWingNut has posted his GDT. - MattTonight is the sixth of eight games between the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues this season. The Blues lead the series 3-2 with wins November 13th (4-3), December 20th (3-2), and December 31st. The Wings won the November 21st (3-0) and December 26th (5-0) meetings. The teams will face each other once more on the 25th and 28th in a home-home series beginning in St. Louis.
The puck drops at 7:30 ET.
The 29-27-10 Blues finished February 5-7-3 and hit March on a five-game losing streak. That streak continued with a 2-0 loss to the visiting San Jose Sharks on March 1st. They won on Tuesday night, however, posting a 3-2 decision over the LA Kings at home.
Tonight's game kicks off a nine-stop road trip for the Blues, who will head to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Anaheim, Montreal, Ottawa, and Chicago before returning home to face the Wings on the 25th. As the St. Louis Dispatch points out, that's a lot of miles: 8,718 or so.
The Blues' 68 points are good for 13th place in the Conference. Their chances of making the playoffs are slim.
Paul Kariya is the team leader in points with 52. His 37 assists are also a team best. Brad Boyes, who signed a four-year contract extension earlier this week, leads the Blues in goals with 32. Keith Tkachuk is the only other Blue to crack 20 goals with 21.
According to the Dispatch, Dan Hinote (hip) and Mike Johnson (shoulder) are out. Cam Janssen and Jay McClement were healthy scratches Tuesday night.
Manny Legace should be in net tonight for the Blues. He has posted a 2.28 GAA and a .914 save-percentage this season.
For the Blues' perspective, see St. Louis Game Time.
The Wings finished 4-8-2 and headed in to March on a four-game losing streak. They halted that particular skid with a 4-2 win over the Sabres in Buffalo Sunday evening.
Tonight is the first of a five-game homestand in which the Wings will host the Predators (twice), Blackhawks, and Stars before hitting the road to face the Blue Jackets in Columbus on the 16th.
The Wings' 92 points are good for first in the League. The Dallas Stars are just five points behind them, but the Wings have two games in hand.
Pavel Datsyuk took over sole possession of the points leader spot on the Wings by notching his 76th of the season on his team-leading 53rd assist. Henrik Zetterberg's 36 goals are a team best and his 75 points are good for second. Datsyuk (23) and Tomas Holmstrom (20) are the only other active Red Wings to have cracked the 20-goal barrier.
Barring a setback during the morning skate, the team will have Brian Rafalski (groin) back tonight. He missed the last eight games.
Nick Lidstrom (knee sprain) remains out, but it's possible he could return Sunday against Nashville.
Chris Chelios (bone chip, right leg) also remains out, but is apparently feeling better.
20-goal-scorer Dan Cleary (broken jaw) is out. He is skating, but is not expected to return to the lineup until April.
Despite the return of Brian Rafalski, the Wings have elected to keep Jonathan Ericsson in town. Mike Babcock told Bruce MacLeod yesterday that the young Swede would play tonight, which means a regular will sit.
My guess is Brett Lebda, who has had something of a rough time adjusting to increased minutes in the absence of Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Chelios, and Rafalski. Also possible is Andreas Lilja, but I thought his performance Sunday was solid enough to avoid being scratched.
Dominik Hasek is the starter for Detroit.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, and Winging It In Motown.
This is an important game for the Wings. They took a strong first step in getting back on track Sunday with their win over Buffalo. They need to continue to head in the right direction with a stronger performance tonight. The return of Brian Rafalski should provide a boost to the forwards, who will benefit from his passing skill.
The Blues always play the Wings hard, so I expect a pretty tight game. If the Wings really are on the upswing, though, they should be able to pull out a win.
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