Update (4:35 PM): Bruce MacLeod confirms the Red Wings' lines and pairings listed below. He also provides probable forward and defensive units for Minnesota:
In a separate post, he has an update on Niklas Kronwall. Nothing new, really—although Mike Babcock told MacLeod,
"Every time you interview Kronner, he's going to tell you how good he feels. This is going to be longer than he thinks."
I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the Wings ought to have someone writing unique game previews like that rather than rely on AP cookie-cutter previews like this one, which you can find here, here and here among other places. - Matt
Update (1:02 PM): The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune's Michael Russo reports that Niklas Backstrom will start tonight. He should be back up by Nolan Schafer, who will cover for a sick Josh Harding.
He says, "Looks to me from watching Detroit skate that Dominik Hasek is in net, but not positive."
Russo also confirms that Mark Parrish will be out. Matt Foy will dress instead.
Lastly, he notes that Jacque Lemaire made the skate optional today, strictly to see who would opt out. As he points out, the fact that everyone but Parrish, Boogaard and Harding participated in the skate should indicate how seriously the Wild are taking this game. - Matt
The Detroit Red Wings and the Minnesota Wild face off for the fourth time this season tonight in the State of Hockey. The puck drops at 8:00 ET.
Gord Dwyer (39) and Steve Kozari (40) will officiate the game tonight. Mike Cvik (88) and Mark Pare (79) will be the linesmen.
Minnesota finished 7-4-1 in January. Their win over the Wings on the 10th kicked off a three-game streak that ended with a shootout loss to Calgary on the 16th. Two nights later, they dropped a game to the Ducks.
Since then, however, they are 4-1-0, including a revenge win over Anaheim on the 30th. They couldn't get past the Flames on the 22nd, however. They were in Columbus on February 2nd and pulled out a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets and are now home for their next three.
The Wild are first in the Northwest Division, with a two-point lead over Colorado and a three-point lead over Calgary. As the Division leader, they occupy the third seed in the West, despite having fewer points than the San Jose Sharks.
Minnesota will be without Derek Boogaard (back), Sean Hill (ankle), and Mark Parrish (concussion).
Marian Gaborik leads the Wild with 28 goals and 55 points. Brian Rolston is second in goals scored with 19, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard is second in points with 45, 11 of which are goals.
Three other Minnesota players have scored 10 or more goals: Parrish (13), Eric Belanger (12), and Pavol Demitra (10). Demitra has four assists in his last two games.
It looks as though Niklas Backstrom will be in net tonight for the Wild, though I cannot find actual confirmation on that. It's possible that Jacque Lemaire will instead go with Josh Harding, who had a very strong outing against the Wings in the January 10th game.
The Wings finished January 9-2-1, with their only losses coming to Minnesota, Ottawa, and Atlanta. They have won their last seven games, including three California contests and two sets of back-to-back matches. They are coming off a hard-fought win over a physical Boston team in a game that came the night after a depleted Colorado squad tried riding over them rough-shod. In both games, the Wings adjusted to the style of play and came out on top.
Detroit sits atop the Central Division, Western Conference and National Hockey League with 40 wins and 84 points, 16 points ahead of the second-place team overall, Ottawa.
The team will be without defenseman Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) for the third game in a row. Rookie Derek Meech will fill in once more.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 31 and tied with Pavel Datsyuk for the points lead with 65. Datsyuk cracked a nine-game goalless streak with his 18th of the season Saturday in Boston.
Five other Red Wings have 10 or more goals: Tomas Holmstrom (20), Dan Cleary (19), Valtteri Filppula (15), Jiri Hudler (11), and Brian Rafalski (10). Kris Draper and Johan Franzen both have nine, while Mikael Samuelsson has eight.
Projected lines (based on Monday's practice units):
Expect to see the second and third pairings mix somewhat as Chris Chelios continues to undertake greater responsibility in the absence of Kronwall.
Dominik Hasek should get the start tonight.
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.
Minnesota has been strong lately and are certainly looking to prove that they can skate with the best in the league. For them and their fans, this game is huge. If they are going to prove anything, however, they'll have to do it against a team that is even hotter than they are.
With the exception of LA, the Wings have not just been beating up the League weaklings over their current seven-game winning streak, as their wins over San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado, and Boston indicate. Even the win over the resurgent Phoenix Coyotes cannot be considered a slam dunk. They are humming along at the moment and finding ways to win in spite of various points of adversity. I wouldn't call this their best stretch of the season, but they are certainly capable of beating you no matter how you play. Just ask the Ducks, Avs, or Bruins.
You can bet that the Wings will be looking to exact revenge for their January 10th home loss to the Wild. They would love nothing more than to return the favor tonight in Minnesota.
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