The Montreal Canadiens are in Detroit tonight for a rare game against the perennial powerhouse Detroit Red Wings. These two teams match up pretty well, at least on paper, and have similar stats in virtually every category.
The Habs are in third place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their first place standing in the Northeast, one point behind the Washington Capitals and four behind the Penguins—with two games in hand on both teams.
While there is only one point separating the Wings and the Habs in the league standings, they have been headed in different directions of late.
For their part, the Red Wings are leading the Western Conference with 37 points in 26 games. They have, however, been going through a rough patch lately and are currently on a three-game slide while the Habs are headed in the other direction with three-game winning streak.
The Habs are coming off of a convincing 4-1 thumping of the Ottawa Senators and will be looking to push their streak to four games. The Red Wings, on the other hand, are coming off of a 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators and will be eager to turn things around in front of their home fans.
Despite their recent struggles, the Red Wings are a perennially elite team that should serve as yet another excellent measuring stick for the Canadiens. Bob Gainey actually tried to build the Habs in the mold of the Red Wings before stepping down as GM, basing his blueprint more on speed and skill than size and brute strength.
Carey Price will get his 27th start of the season and the Red Wings will counter with Jimmy Howard, who gets his 22nd start. Both goalies have been ripping it up this season so it should be an excellent battle of two of the top keepers in the league.
The Red Wings and Canadiens are ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, on the power play operating at 20.7 percent and 18.0 percent efficiencies. The discrepancy is bigger on the penalty kill, however, with the Habs running the top PK in the league (89.3%) and Detroit checking in at the eight spot (85%).
An interesting sub-plot to this game is the matchup of two of the best two-way forwards in the league in Tomas Plekanec and Pavel Datsyuk. I fully expect these two to be nominees for the Selke Trophy at season's end.
The Wings, as a team, have scored 13 more goals than the Canadiens, but the Habs have let in 16 fewer goals. As such, I'd expect some stifling Jacques Martin hockey tonight as the Canadiens will likely play a patience-based game where they shut down the neutral zone and wait for their opportunities.
Despite their recent struggles, the Red Wings have a blistering 10-3-2 record at Joe Louis arena, so the Habs had better be ready to play a solid road game.
The puck drops at around 7:05 pm.
It looks like the Habs will be without the services of center Scott Gomez who is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. There is no official word yet on the extent of his injury or on whether he will play, but he did accompany the team to Detroit.
There is also no official word yet on the status of benched defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban has been a healthy scratch for the last three games and the team has yet to indicate whether or not he will be in the lineup tonight.
UPDATE: 12:45 pm EST
Scott Gomez will not play tonight and Dustin Boyd will take him place in the lineup. On defense, P.K. Subban will make his return to the lineup and Yannick Weber will sit.