Tonight is the seventh of eight meetings between the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets this season and the third in the past week. The series stands tied at three, with the Wings winning November 9th (4-1), November 18th (5-4 SO), and March 19th (3-1), and the Jackets winning November 24th (3-2 OT), February 15th (5-1), and March 16 (4-3). The final game will be played on April 3rd in Detroit.
The game is on FSN Plus tonight, not FSN Detroit. If you don't know what channel that is, see this list.
The Jackets have not played since losing to the Wings on Wednesday. The loss dropped them to 3-3-2 in March.
They are in 13th place in the West, seven points behind the eighth seed with only eight games remaining.
Columbus lost two players Wednesday night: Dan Fritsche's left hand was broken by a shot and Jared Boll suffered a hip pointer when he missed Tomas Holmstrom and hit his teammate Fredrik Modin instead. Fritsche will miss the rest of the season. Boll is 3-4 days from returning to the ice.
The Jackets will also be without Pascal Leclaire, who is still suffering the effects of the concussion a teammate gave him prior to the game on Sunday. Defenseman Kris Russell (groin) could return tonight, apparently. David Vyborny (sprained knee) may participate in the morning skate, but it doesn't sound like he'll play.
Lines from practice yesterday (via Puck-Rakers):
Nash -- Malhotra -- Modin
Chimera -- Peca -- Brule
Murray -- Novotny -- Zherdev
Picard -- MacKenzie -- Lindstrom
With Leclaire still out, Fredrik Norrena will get the start.
The Wings improved to 7-2-0 in March with their 6-3 win over Nashville on Thursday. It was a slightly more competitive game than the score indicates, with the Wings blowing a lead in the third period only to pull away again in the end. In that sense it was a messy win, but probably a confidence building one, as they were able to overcome the Preds' third period push.
With San Jose's 2-1 win over Anaheim last night, the Wings' seven-point lead decreased to five with seven games remaining for both teams.
The Wings could see the return of Kris Draper (groin tear) tonight. He centered the third line this morning, according to Bruce MacLeod.
Dan Cleary will not return today after all, having decided to wait until he has the wires removed from his jaw. He could return as soon as Tuesday, but no later than Friday.
Valtteri Filppula (knee, groin) is out until Friday.
It's looking like Darren McCarty (ribs) could play Friday as well.
According to Ken Holland, Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) is getting closer and could be back soon, but not today.
Projected lines (via MacLeod)
MacLeod reports that Dallas Drake did not take part in the morning skate, which could indicate an injury. However, if Drake was just given the practice off and is able to play, Derek Meech is the likely scratch.
Dominik Hasek will be the starter.
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. OklahomaWingNut's GDT is here.
This is another key game for the Wings, who need to keep winning in order to hold off the red-hot San Jose Sharks. At this point in the season, losing first place overall would be a morale killer, especially given the fact that they'd have to lose to Central Division teams to do it.
The emphasis today needs to be on scoring the first goal and playing a complete game.