Detroit Red Wings GameDay: Columbus

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Detroit Red Wings GameDay: Columbus

Update (2:08 PM): George Sipple has it from Ken Holland: Valtteri Filppula will sit tonight and probably tomorrow with a sore groin. The injury is not believed to be as bad as Draper's.

Draper, by the way, is now looking to return Saturday instead of tomorrow night. His skate today wasn't quite as good as he'd hoped.

New projected lines:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Samuelsson
Hudler-Franzen-Kopecky
Draper-Helm-Drake
Meech-Hartigan-Downey

I erroneously included Holmstrom in my projected lines below. Sorry about that. An early morning gaffe. - Matt

Update (12:58 PM): The official blog reports that Meech will play on the left wing. There is still no word on who will sit.

I wonder why the team didn't just call up Mattias Ritola if they need another forward. It could just mean this is a move to give a regular rest rather than one to cover for an injury. If it's this is just an effort to get Meech playing time, it's an odd way to do it.  - Matt

Updated (12:39 PM): Bruce MacLeod reports that Derek Meech will play forward tonight. You read that right. It'll be the first time in his NHL career that he's moved to the front.

MacLeod also says that Aaron Downey and Darren Helm will play, which, together with the Meech news, means there is another forward injured or  in need of rest, though the team would not specify who. My guess? Henrik Zetterberg.

Also, Brett Lebda and Chris Chelios will comprise the third pairing, which makes Andreas Lilja tonight's healthy scratch.

Lastly, Tomas Holmstrom (abdomin) is still having trouble with "straight-ahead skating," though he did participate in battle drills. Expect him back Saturday at the earliest.  - Matt

Update (12:20 PM): Thanks to Bethany of Bethany's Hockey Rants for leaving this clarification on Picard's status in the comments:

Picard hasn’t been called up, so he definitely won’t be in the lineup.

- Matt

Update (10:11 AM): Jeff (OklahomaWingNut) has posted his GDT here. - Matt

Update (10:08 AM): A minor update to the list of injured Blue Jackets: the Columbus Dispatch does not include Alexandre Picard, so presumably he is a possible for tonight.

Also, the Dispatch confirms that Norrena will start. - Matt

Update (9:17 AM): Helene St. James has now backed up her characterization of the third pairing roster battle with a quote from Babcock that came as a direct response to the question of Chris Chelios' status:

""You can speculate all you want. I just went through it:There's three guys, and there's two jobs."

So, Chelios isn't a lock for a spot after all. That's technically true for everyone on the team under Babcock's "you have to earn it" standard, though the threshold for being scratched is obviously lower for some players than for others. It's hard for me to imagine Chelios not earning "it," however, so  that spot's pretty much as good as his.

A further Chelios-related note: George Malik points out that there is some question as to whether#24 will be in the lineup tonight, given the fact that team policy has been to avoid playing veterans in consecutive games. So, it's possible we could see a slightly different third pairing. - Matt

The Detroit Red Wings host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight in the sixth meeting between the two teams this season. Columbus leads the series 3-2, with wins November 24th (3-2 OT), February 15th (5-1), and March 16 (4-3). Detroit won the November 9th (4-1) and November 18th (5-4 SO). Tonight's game is the second of three between the Wings and the Blue Jackets this week. They face off again Saturday in Columbus.

The puck drops at 7:30 ET.

Columbus is 3-2-2 in March thus far. They began the month on a 0-1-2 skid, but turned it around somewhat with a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on the 9th. They lost on the 14h to Chicago, 6-3, but have won both of their games since, beginning with Sunday's 4-3 decision over the Wings. They shut out the Flames last night en route to a 3-0 victory, earning revenge for a 1-0 loss on the 4th.

The Jackets are currently in 11th place in the West, 7 points behind 8th place Colorado. They have only a slim chance of making the playoffs, if they have any at all.

Rick Nash is the Jackets' point and goals leader with 64 and 37, respectively. Nikolai Zherdev's 58 points is good for second on the team, as are his 25 goals. Nash and Zherdev are the only two Jackets to crack the 20-goal barrier. Only Jason Chimera (14), Manny Malholtra (10), and Dan Fritsche (10) have reached double-digit goal totals.

Columbus will be without Fredrik Modin (flu), who did not make the trip to Detroit.  The Freep lists David Vyborny (knee) as questionable and Alexandre Picard (knee) as out.

With Pascal Leclaire out with a concussion suffered Sunday in the pre-game warm-up, Fredrik Norrena should get the start tonight.Given the Jackets' need for wins, it seems doubtful AHLer Dan LaCosta would play.

For the Jackets' perspective, see John Arvai at Bleacher Report, Better on Ice, The Jacket Times, Army of the Ohio, End of the Bench, Neutral Zone Trap, and Bethany’s Hockey Rants.

The Wings fell to  5-2-0 with their second consecutive loss Sunday afternoon in Columbus. The day before, they dropped a home game to Nashville, 3-1. The five-game win-streak with which they started the month marked a turnaround from a 4-8-2 February. They are two games into an 11-game stretch in which they will only play Central Division teams. Tonight is the first of a back-to-back that will see them in Nashville tomorrow.

The Wings clinched the Central Division and a playoff berth on the 13th with a 5-3 win over Dallas. That in part explains their subsequent lapse over the two games since: they've taken their foot off the pedal.

Pavel Datsyuk is the Wings' point leader with 84. 19 of those points came over the past 19 games.

Henrik Zetterberg is the goals leader with 36, but he has not scored in seven.  It seems he's being bothered by his back or wrist. We can expect to see him rested soon.

Johan Franzen has had the hot stick lately, with eight goals in his past seven. He became the fifth Red Wing this season to break the 20-goal barrier with his second of the game Sunday and is warming up nicely for the post-season.

The Wings will be without Kris Draper (groin tear) tonight. The team called up Darren Helm to fill in if deemed necessary.

Tomas Holmstrom (abdomin) will also sit out.

Aaron Downey (flu) is able to return, though it's possible he could be a scratch in favor of Helm.

Projected lines:

Filppula-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Franzen-Zetterberg-Samuelsson
Maltby-Kopecky-Drake
Helm-Hudler-Downey

That's right. No Mark Hartigan. Wishful thinking, probably. 

Projected pairings:

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Stuart
Chelios-Lilja

It's possible Babcock will mix up the top four again, putting Rafalski with Stuart and Kronwall with Lidstrom.

Chris Osgood will get the start tonight. Dominik Hasek will play tomorrow.

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, BR Red Wings, and Winging It In Motown.

This is a key game for the Wings. Their lead over San Jose has dwindled to just five points and at this stage in the season, losing 1st place would be a bit of a letdown after all their hard work to this point. They need to elevate their play in preparation for the playoffs, rather than allow themselves to become bored by the meaningless nature of these last games. The highly-motivated Columbus Blue Jackets provide a good opportunity to return to form and to work on weaknesses.

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