Update (9:20 AM): Via NHL Media: Mike Hasenfratz (30) and Mike Leggo (3) will officiate the game. Tim Nowak (77) and Tony Sericolo (84) will man the lines. - Matt
Update (9:18 AM): OklahomaWingNut's GDT is here. - Matt
Tonight is the fourth and final meeting this season between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado. Detroit leads the series 3-0, with wins December 27th (4-2), January 8th (1-0), and February 1st (2-0).
The puck drops at 8:00 ET on Versus.
Colorado is 3-3-1 since we saw them last. On the second, they pulled off a 6-4 road win over St. Louis. Two nights later, the Coyotes beat them in Denver, 4-3 in overtime. On the sixth, the Avs defeated the Sharks at the Tank 3-1 and three nights later, they took it to the Canucks in Vancouver, 6-2.
Since then, they've dropped three straight. The skid began at home with a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on the 12th, continued with a 4-1 defeat by St. Louis on Thursday, and left off with a 2-1 loss in Chicago yesterday.
The Avs are third in the Northwest Division with 65 points. They are currently ninth in the Conference, but are just one point behind Calgary for the eighth seed.
Marek Svatos is the top Colorado goal-scorer with 25. Milan Hejduk (20), Wojtek Wolski (14), Andrew Brunette (11), and Ryan Smyth (11) are the only active Avalanche to have double-digit goal totals. Brunette is goal-less in his last eight and Wolski is goal-less in his last nine. Milan Hejduk has not scored in three and Svatos hasn't in two.
Colorado will likely be without Paul Stastny (groin), who is close to returning, but apparently not quite ready. Joe Sakic (hernia surgery) and and Cody McCormick (chest contusion) are out.
It seems Jose Theodore is the likely starter tonight.
The Wings are 3-5-1 in February, with their losses coming all in a row starting February 7th against the Kings. They've since lost to Toronto (3-2 OT), Anaheim (3-2), Nashville (4-2), Columbus (5-1) and Dallas (1-0).
The loss to the Stars came yesterday and was particularly disappointing because of the stretches in which they played well enough to win. They were, however, unable to get past Marty Turco, who put on a stellar performance and got the help of the post a couple times when he couldn't make the save himself.
It was probably the Wings' best game over the skid, but wasn't good enough.
The loss cut the Wings' lead over the Conference and League to eight points, as Dallas continued its bid to overtake them.
Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in goals with 33, but he is goal-less in five. That his drought roughly corresponds with the Wings' nose dive is no coincidence.
The Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) for the tenth straight game. Derek Meech will fill in once more.
It looks like Brian Rafalski (groin) will not play for the third game in a row. In that case, Kyle Quincey will dress.
Dan Cleary (broken jaw) will be out for the fourth straight game. Aaron Downey filled in yesterday, but I'm guessing Babock may go for a slightly mixed-up lineup today and dress Matt Ellis instead.
My guess is Chris Osgood will return to the net tonight, but Jimmy Howard's performance yesterday may have earned him another start.
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 won't be posting his pre-game numbers any more, but you can still find OklahomaWingNut's GDT's at Kukla's Forums. He hasn't posted today's yet, though.
Tonight's going to be a tough game for the Wings. The Avs have played them close in every meeting this season and the last thing they need is to face a team fighting for a playoff spot.
They are going to have to build on yesterday's performance and go a long way in returning to form if they want to come out of this one ahead.