The Detroit Red Wings are in St. Louis tonight for their seventh meeting with the Blues this season. The series stands tied at three, with the two teams alternating wins: St. Louis won November 13th (4-3), December 20th (3-2), and December 31st (2-0), and the Wings won November 21st (3-0), December 26th (5-0), and March 5th (4-1). The eighth and final meeting will be played on Friday in Detroit.
The puck drops at 8:30 ET.
The 30-33-12 Blues fell to 2-7-2 in the month of March with a 4-3 overtime loss in Chicago on Sunday. Their only wins in March came against LA on the 4th (3-2) and Montreal on the 18th (SO). The win over the Canadiens snapped a six-game losing streak that began with their loss to the Wings on the 5th. They returned to losing two days later with a 3-2 loss in Ottawa on Thursday.
The game in Chicago was the last of a nine-game road trip. Tonight is the Blues' first home-game since their March 4th win over the Kings.
The Blues' 72 points are good for 14th place in the West and 28th place overall. They are 14 points out of a playoff spot with seven games left.
Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya lead the Blues in points with 57 each. Keith Tkachuk is not far behind with 53. Boyes' 38 goals is a team high. Tkachuk (23) is the only other St. Louis player to crack 20 goals. Kariya's 42 assists lead the team by a 12-point margin over Tkachuk and Andy McDonald.
Andy McDonald (foot) is listed as probable. Martin Rucinsky (back) is doubtful. Jay McKee (foot), Dan Hinote (side), and Mike Johnson (shoulder) are out. (via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Manny Legace sat out Sunday's game with a "lower-body muscle strain," but practiced yesterday. It looks like he'll be the starter. He is 6-6-0 versus the Wings in his career.
For more on the Blues, see St. Louis Game Time.
The Wings improved to 8-2-0 in March with a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday. The game extended their current win streak to three games. Prior to that, they lost two in a row. A loss to the Predators (3-1) on the 15th cut short a five-game winning streak. They then lost the next day, 4-3 to Columbus. They returned to winning on the 19th with a 3-1 win over the Jackets. The next night, they doubled up the Predators, 6-3.
Tonight is the last of a three-game stretch of road games for the Wings. It hasn't been a continuous road trip, however. They returned to Detroit after playing in Columbus on Saturday.
The Wings (50-20-6) have a seven-point lead over San Jose for first place overall. The red-hot Sharks are in Phoenix tonight facing a team that has lost its last five.
Pavel Datsyuk leads the Wings in points with 90. Henrik Zetterberg is the leader in goals with 40. Johan Franzen is the hot stick, with ten goals in his last ten, bringing his total to 22.
The Wings are scheduled to see the return of Dan Cleary (broken jaw) to the lineup tonight. He has been out since taking a Mikael Samuelsson shot to the face on February 9th in Toronto. Cleary made a significant sacrifice in order to return this quickly. For more on that, see George Malik's post here.
Valtteri Filppula (sore knee, groin) will not return tonight, though a report over the weekend had left open the possibility. It doesn't look like he'll be back Friday, either.
Tomas Holmstrom (abdomen) will not return after suffering a setback yesterday. He may not play Friday.
Darren McCarty could be back for the game Friday.
Projected lines (via MacLeod):
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, Red Wings Brasil, BR Red Wings, and Winging It In Motown.
This game will be another test of the Wings' concentration. The Blues are having a rough month and it would therefore be easy to write them off. However, they remain a talented and dangerous team, one that could easily chose tonight to come out of their tailspin. The fact that the Blues will be playing their first home-game in 22 days will provide extra motivation.
The Wings are going to have to be prepared for rough play, especially if they are in the lead. The Blues had the Blackhawks complaining after their game Sunday, though they denied any wrongdoing. I know who I believe, however. St. Louis' tendency to get goonish when behind dates at least from their Pronger and Quenneville days and makes them a dangerous team in more ways than one.