This afternoon, the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings meet for the fourth time this season.
Detroit leads the series 2-1 with wins October 3rd (3-2 SO) and January 23rd (2-1). Anaheim won the October 15th meeting, 6-3.
The matchup is the "NHL Game of the Week" and will be televised on NBC. The puck drops at 3:30 ET.
The Ducks are 3-3-1 since January 23rd. The night after losing to Detroit, they kicked off a nine-game road trip with a 3-1 loss in LA. On January 30th, they were on the losing side of a 5-1 decision in Minnesota. Two nights later, they skated to a 1-0 shootout loss in St. Louis. Less than 24 hours later, they were shutout by Martin Baron and the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1.
They turned things around with a 3-0 win over the Islanders on February 5th and continued by beating the Rangers 4-1 on Thursday. On Friday, they extended their winning streak to three games with a 2-1 decision in New Jersey.
The win put them at 14-15-3 on the road this season.
Anaheim's 67 points is good for third in the Pacific Division, behind San Jose (69) and Dallas (73). They are currently fifth in the West and would face the Sharks in the first round if the playoffs started today.
Teemu Selanne returned to the ice from semi-retirement on February 5th. The Ducks are 3-0-0 since then, though he has only two assists over that span.
The team's other late returnee, Scott Niedermayer, has three goals and ten assists through 25 games. Anaheim is 15-7-2 since his December 16th return.
Corey Perry leads the Ducks in goals with 28 and his 48 points are good for second on the team. Ryan Getzlaf has 40 assists and 59 points to lead Anaheim.
Aside from Getzlaf and Perry, three other Ducks have ten or more goals: Chris Kunitz (16), Todd Bertuzzi (12), and Chris Pronger (11). Doug Weight has nine goals.
The Ducks will be without shutdown specialist Sami Pahlsson (abdomen), though it sounds like he's close to making a return. The LA Times reports that forward Travis Moen (flu) practiced yesterday, but it doesn't look like he'll be in.
JS Giguere will get the start tonight.
The Wings are 4-1-1 since January 23rd, but have lost their last two.
First, they blew a 3-1 lead to lose 5-3 to the Kings on Thursday. Then, they blew a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 in overtime in Toronto yesterday. It was a game in which they were fortunate to get a point.
Dominik Hasek was not as good as he has been lately, but he was not given much support as the Wings' defensive coverage was not as it should have been.
On one hand, Nick Lidstrom made a strong case for his MVP candidacy under the blinding Toronto media spotlight, posting a goal and an assist on two nice plays. On the other, his case may have been hurt, as the first Leafs' goal deflected in off his skate and the game-tying goal came after his poke-check on Mats Sundin failed.
Still, he may get a pass because both shots should have been stopped by Hasek.
The team leaders in points, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, notched their 69th and 66th respectively. Zetterberg was given a second assist on the Lidstrom goal despite the fact that the order of passing was Zetterberg to Lidstrom to Datsyuk to Lidstrom and goal. Hank made the outlet pass, but Datsyuk and Lidstrom combined to make the play.
The Wings lost a major part of their forward corps during the first period yesterday. Toward the end of a power play, a Mikael Samuelsson one-timer hit Dan Cleary in the face and broke his jaw.
Cleary will have to undergo surgery and will be out 6-8 weeks, effectively the remainder of the regular season.
Jiri Hudler sat out the Toronto game as Mike Babcock sent the young forward a message. He may be watching from the luxury box once again as the size and physicality of the Ducks together with his current scoring slump give Babcock an easy excuse to bench him once more.
Aaron Downey should get his second consecutive game in the lineup, and if Hudler sits again, Matt Ellis will dress.
Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) will miss his fifth game. Derek Meech will fill in again.
I thought that second line played very well following Cleary's injury. It looks like a good mix. I put Franzen in the middle rather than Filppula because the Wings like him at center against teams with big forwards like Anaheim has.
Chris Osgood should get the start today.
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 pregame numbers posted here.
This is a huge game for both teams. It's the first time this season that the Wings will meet the fully reconstituted Ducks and the fact that they'll have to do it without two key players will be a good test of their resiliency.
The Ducks, on the other hand, will be looking to see how they measure up now that they have all the pieces in place.
The Wings will have to find a way to get out of the funk that has been evident in their game over the past week or so and the Ducks may be just the team to jolt them back to form. If they rise to the challenge as they did on January 23rd, this will be a good game and will live up to the hype.
If they don't, it may get ugly.
They played in front of a national Canadian audience yesterday and underperformed. They have a chance to make up for it in front of a national US audience today.