Detroit Red Wings GameDay: @ Boston

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Detroit Red Wings GameDay: @ Boston

Update (1:01 PM): Writing at a newly-redesigned Red Wings Corner, Bruce MacLeod reports Dallas Drake will dress tonight after being a healthy scratch against Colorado.

He also says there's a possibility that Aaron Downey could remain  in the lineup, if Babcock decides the makeup of Boston's roster demands the presence of an enforcer.  In that case, MacLeod says, either Tomas Kopecky or Kirk Maltby will be scratched. Given Kopecky's play of late, I'd have to think Maltby would be the odd man out.

It looks like Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski will start out together tonight. That would mean Brett Lebda and Chris Chelios would share time with Andreas Lilja. Chelios will also likely be paired with young Derek Meech. - Matt

Update (12:47 PM): The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa confirms that Marco Sturm will be in the lineup and that Tim Thomas will start tonight. He also provides projected lines and pairings for the Bruins:

Sturm-Savard-Kessel
Lucic-Metropolit-Kobasew
Axelsson-Krejci-Schaefer
Reich-Nokelainen-Thornton

Chara-Wideman
Stuart-Ward
Ference-Hnidy

Also, Ansar Khan notes that this is the first time the Wings have made the trip to Boston since 2004. They lost 2-1 in overtime on January 10 of that year. - Matt

Tonight is the only meeting this season between the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins. The Bruins won the last meeting, 6-3, on March 11th, 2007.

The puck drops at 7:00 ET. 

The referees tonight will be Mike Hasenfratz (30) and Marc Joanette (25). The linesmen will be  David Brisebois (96) and Pat Dapuzzo (60).

The 27-19-5 Bruins are 8-3-1 in 2008, with their losses coming to Carolina, Montreal (twice), and Toronto (SO). They have won their last three, however, beginning with a 4-1 decision over the Islanders on January 24th. They returned from the All Star Break with a 3-1 win over Nashville on the 29th and followed that up with a 4-1 win in Ottawa on the 31st. Tonight is their final game against Western Conference opponents this season, against whom they are 6-3-0.

Boston is third place in the Northeast Division with 59 points, nine behind the leader Ottawa. They currently occupy the seventh seed in the East, but are within a point of the fifth-place team, Pittsburgh. The eighth-place Rangers are just one point behind them.

Marc Savard leads the team with 59 points, 46 of which are assists. Marco Sturm's 34 points are second-best. Six Bruins have 10 or more goals: Chuck Kobasew (18), Marco Sturm (17), Phil Kessel (14), Savard (13), Glen Metropolit (10), Glen Murrary (10). PJ Axelsson is not far behind with nine.

The Bruins will be without Bobby Allen (back), Glen Murrary (hip flexor strain), Andrew Alberts (post-concussion syndrome), and Patrice Bergeron (concussion, broken nose). Manny Fernandez is also unavailable due to a December 12th knee surgery.  The Freep lists Marco Sturm (illness) as questionable, but the Boston Globe reports that he is expected to play.

Tim Thomas will get the start for the Bruins. He is the league leader in save-percentage at .931.

For the Bruins' perspective, be sure to stop by The Bear Cave (preview here),  Bruins BlogBruins NationThe Bruins ReportFive For Writing, Ghosts of the GardenThe Old Bruins Fanso.very.obsessed.The Spoked B, and  WickedBruinsFan's Blog.

The Wings improved to 10-2-1 in 2008 with a hard-fought 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche last night at Joe Louis Arena.  Despite outshooting the Avs by a wide margin (they finished 35-15), the Wings couldn't get the puck in the net until 17:40 of the third period. Peter Budaj was a wall.

They caught a break late in the second period, when a Milan Hejduk goal was waived off when the official ruled Scott Hannan had interfered with Dominik Hasek. The ref failed to notice that Hannan had been pushed into the Red Wing goaltender by Brett Lebda in a battle for position. Once the goal was waived off, however, it was not reviewable.

Henrik Zetterberg finally got the Wings late in the third with his 30th goal of the season. Coming from behind the net, he tried slamming it in and was helped by the stick of the Colorado defenseman, who redirected the puck up and through Budaj. Kris Draper added an empty net goal at 19:47. It was just his fourth in his last 37 games.

Dominik Hasek earned his 80th career shutout, but did not have to do much as the Colorado game-plan for two periods was something of an offense-less variation on the Anaheim strategy: they tried to use physical play to get under the Wings' skin and force them to frustration. They were largely unsuccessful. In the third period, their strategy changed and they started to focus more on offensive hockey, finishing with 11 shots in the final twenty minutes.

After seeing how tightly the Avs have played the Wings in their last two games, I have to say that I do not find the prospect of playing them in the first round very attractive. Even as depleted as they were, they very nearly took a point out of that game, and could have easily won, despite being outplayed.

The win gave Detroit 82 points  and extended their league lead over the idle Ottawa Senators to 14 points.

Pavel Datsyuk notched two assists* last night, bringing his total to 46 on the season. He has eight assists in his last five games, but has not scored a goal himself since the Wings' 1-0 win over Colorado on the 8th. That's nine goalless games. Tonight's a great chance for Pavel to snap out of that semi-slump and get some All Star redemption at the same time.

The Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall (sternoclavicular joint sprain) tonight. Derek Meech will get his third straight game in the lineup.

Aaron Downey played last night and because I missed the pre-game coverage and most of the first period, I'm somewhat out of the loop as to why. I assume it had to do with resting Dallas Drake and with having a tough guy in the lineup against Colorado. Drake should be back in tonight.

Projected lines:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Samuelsson-Franzen-Cleary
Hudler-Filppula-Kopecky
Drake-Draper-Maltby

I noticed Babcock mixed things up as the game went on last night, but the above will probably be his starting point.

Projected pairings:

Lidstrom-Lilja
Lebda/Chelios-Rafalski
Chelios-Meech

The pairings seemed pretty fluid last night, so we can definitely expect to see a departure from these.

Chris Osgood will get the start tonight. His his .926 save-percentage is good for second in the League.

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, and Winging It In Motown.

Todd has his pre-game numbers posted and OklahomaWingNut's GDT is up at Kulka's Forums.

Tonight will be a good test of the Wings' patience, as they will have to deal with a very defensively-minded team that is backed up by another strong goaltender. If the Bruins are intent on keeping the pace of the game down, that should suit the Wings, who will be in something of an energy conservation mode after playing last night.

Al Strachan recently wrote a piece in The Hockey News calling the Bruins "boring," but if this game is anything like most other Original Six match-ups, there should be enough emotion to make it interesting.

*One of which came on Draper's empty net goal.

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