Top 5 Can't-Miss Detroit Red Wings Games in the 2013-14 Season
Given their move to the Eastern Conference, one could argue that every Detroit Red Wings game in 2013-14 is of the "can't miss" variety.
Indeed, the young season has already yielded an intriguing new rivalry with their Atlantic Division neighbors, the Boston Bruins and previously uninteresting tilts against Eastern Conference teams like the Carolina Hurricanes are suddenly consequential.
The Red Wings off-season moves combined with their new NHL zip code also make for some interesting story lines.
Additionally, former Red Wing, Valtteri Filppula, who was handed his hat over the summer after eight years in Detroit, found a new home with Steve Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning.
Three familiar faces in new places all in the same division will make for no shortage of potential grudge matches this season.
However, the heated rivalries that Detroit was forced to leave behind in the Western Conference will undoubtedly be made even more intense given the infrequency they'll face off with the likes of the St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
Finally, while all fans highlighted some "can't-miss" games on the schedule when the season began, the first nine outings of the 2013-14 season have added some considerable spice to previously bland offerings on the Red Wings calendar.
With 73 games remaining in the 2013-14 season, here are five that no fan should miss.
October 23rd, Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena
Ottawa Senators fans won't have to wait long to see one of the more anticipated games of the season.
The Senators will visit Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night to face a new divisional foe as well as a long-time friend.
Daniel Alfredsson's departure from the Ottawa Senators was shocking as it was sad for a fan base who had long-since adopted the Swedish winger as their own after 17 years with the franchise.
Both players are off to great starts with their respective teams.
Alfredsson has nine points in as many games with the Wings and Ryan has four goals amidst seven points in his first eight games as a Senator.
Which man will perform better at the Joe Wednesday night will provide the most interesting subplot to what will be the first of four regular season meetings between the two clubs this season?
November 9th, Tampa Bay Lightning at Joe Louis Arena
In eight seasons with the Red Wings, Valtteri Filppula provided plenty of highlight plays—the only problem is, he should have provided a great deal more than he actually did.
Long hoped (or perhaps, hyped) to become the Red Wings ensconced second-line center, Filppula never quite stepped up to fill that role.
Aside from an outstanding playoff performance in 2008-09 that saw the Finnish forward post three goals and 13 assists in 23 games and a long overdue breakout year in 2011-12, in which Filppula finished with 66 points. His career in Detroit was marked largely by unmet expectations.
Filppula's struggles in Detroit were no more apparent than they were last season.
In 41 games, Filppula managed only 17 points, a minus-4 rating and despite his obvious talent and flashes of brilliance, general manager Ken Holland had all but waived goodbye to Filppula prior to the start of free agency on July 5.
As it turned out, Filppula didn't have to wait long for a new gig and the Wings wasted no time in filling the whole down the middle of their second line.
On July 5th, Filppula signed a five-year, $25 million contract with Tampa Bay and Detroit brought in Stephen Weiss from Florida via a nearly identical contract.
Weiss is off to a slow start in Detroit, posting two goals and no assists in nine games.
Filppula, on the other hand, has four goals among six points in eight games for the Bolts.
When he returns to Detroit on November 9th, fans will surely be comparing the two players shift by shift.
Weiss would do well to make sure he outpaces his predecessor lest the hometown crowd start to wonder why Holland let Filppula go in the first place.
5. January 22nd, 2014, Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena
The Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division yielded a lot of positives things for the team.
A much easier travel schedule is the most oft cited benefit, however, renewed rivalries with Original Six opponents like the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs offer great benefits to realignment as well.
Nearly everything about the Red Wings eastward migration is positive, for the team and fans alike.
However, there was one big negative as the result of the Wings' realignment—fewer games against the Blackhawks.
NHL realignment has tossed some water on the NHL's oldest and most familiar rivalry, a rivalry that was still burning white hot during last year's playoffs.
This season, save for a Stanley Cup Finals showdown (his will be done), these two familiar foes will face off only twice.
Given how things ended the last time these two teams met, one can bet that the Red Wings and their fans will be eager to take a bite out of the defending Stanley Cup Champions when they return to the Motor City in January.
4. March 6th, 2014, Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena
In the event that you're reading this and have no clue about the history between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, go ahead and plug both team names into your favorite search engine and get up to speed.
For most hockey fans, the pure hatred that existed between these two elite franchises in the late 90s and early 2000s still resonates today.
Any meeting between these two teams during that period wasn't just a highlight on the calendars of their respective fan bases, the hockey world at large made sure to tune in for every second of action.
The Avalanche's decline post-Roy, post-Sakic, post-Forsberg, etc., significantly cooled the rivalry and when the Red Wings unceremoniously dispatched the Avs in four games during the Western Conference Semifinals in 2008, the rivalry was all but dead.
So, when former Colorado goalie and current head coach Patrick Roy sat down for a pregame interview with former Red Wings goalie and current analyst Chris Osgood before last Thursday's game, the hatchet seemed effectively buried.
If indeed it was, then Avalanche forward Cody McLeod dug it up again shortly after the puck dropped and started swinging it around.
McLeod's hit on Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall wasn't nearly as vicious as the one that Claude Lemieux laid on Kris Draper to ignite this rivalry in the first place, but it is certainly a passable homage.
When the Avalanche visit the Red Wings in March, there will be a heady amount of nostalgia in the air as the Detroit faithful will surely have its hate on for McLeod every time he touches the puck.
3. March 16th, 2014, Detroit Red Wings at the United Center
As I said, losing the Red Wings/Blackhawks rivalry via realignment kinda sucked.
Once again, barring a Stanley Cup Finals match-up, this game will be the last these teams see of each other in the 2013-14 season.
2. January 1, 2014 Winter Classic: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings
To be honest, the whole outdoor game thing is losing some of its luster.
When the NHL announced that they were planning not one, not two but six outdoor games in 2013-14, well, "overkill" was the word that came to mind.
Overkill or not, the NHL Winter Classic will, at least for this season, remain the "premier" outdoor NHL game and the league certainly got it right in selecting two Original Six rivals in Toronto and Detroit as the teams to feature.
Not only do both franchises provide a wealth of rich hockey history and a slew of notable alumni to add to the festivities, the game should actually be a great one.
The Leafs have started the 2013-14 season in fine form and their record is currently identical to the Red Wings' 6-3 start.
Should the trends hold, the 2014 Winter Classic could very well prove fateful for both teams' playoff positioning.
All hype aside, this year's Winter Classic at the Big House (Michigan Stadium) should be one for the ages.
1. December 1st, Detroit Red Wings at Canadian Tire Center
So, how can one game featuring the exact same teams be a runner-up to a top five list and another take the crown at number one?
Location, location, location.
Daniel Alfredsson's return to Ottawa on December 1st will be emotional with a capital "E", for the man as well as the city that loved him dearly for 17 NHL seasons.
Ottawa's (former) favorite son will face no small amount of on and off ice distractions as he returns to his former home. Whether he's cheered or jeered (honestly, it will likely be a bit of both), Alfredsson will be very happy when the clock clicks down to zero.
He will be doubly happy if he can help his team leave the arena with two points and should he perform well enough to do that, he will certainly endear himself further to his new teammates and likely cause his former friends to miss him more.
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