You wouldn't be blamed for thinking this game's going to be a slam dunk if you listen to the pundits -- and Wings GM Ken Holland. But tonight's going to be typical Wings/Blues hockey, and it won't be easy.
Ken Holland thinks that the Red Wings might not make the playoffs in this abbreviated, weird season. Sure, he might just be trying to damper expectations a bit, which is a hard thing to do for Wings fans. But it's also a very real possibility. The Wings face the Blues tonight without Nicklas Lidstrom for the first time in a very, very, very long time. He's been a fixture on the Red Wings' blueline since the 1991-1992 season, and it will be tough for them without their longtime captain.
But hey, look who they got to fill that hole!
Seriously, though, beyond the always dangerous Pavel Datsyuk and their new captain Henrik "Curly Fries" Zetterberg (thank you for that, Cosmo), their projected line up isn't that oomph-inspiring. As Winging it in Motown's game day preview points out:
For the first time in a long time, Detroit isn't a Stanley Cup favorite. They're not a conference or division favorite either. Hell, some people out there don't even think this team can make the playoffs. In the ultra competitive West, that very well could be the case. It's going to be a dog fight of a season. The Wings are going to have to claw their way to every and any point they can get and it starts tonight in St. Louis.
It's tough for me to really consider anyone a Stanley Cup favorite when half of the games during the regular season are gone. It is nice to be on the other side of the fence when it comes to being the favorite. Don't forget, though, that the Wings took the series last season 4-2-0, so this game isn't a gimmie despite the fact that the Blues played the Wings strongly at home. Nothing is a sure fire thing when you're playing a team who's coached by someone who can get blood out of a turnip. No Tomas Holmstrom? No Brad Stuart? No problem.
At least with Holmstrom finally retired we won't have to worry about yelling for his giant ass to move.
There are a few guys out tonight for both teams. Darren Helm, Mikael Samuelsson, and of course Colaiacovo, are all injured. Todd Bertuzzi, who is hell on the Blues, is out with both a groin injury and just a case of the flu or cold or whatever. Andy McDonald also is sick, but he should probably be playing tonight. Alex Pietrangelo tweaked his ankle but participated in the Thursday night scrimmage, so there you go.
Jaroslav Halak is starting in net, and Jaden Schwartz will be on tonight's roster. There's this Vladimir Tarasenko guy skating with McDonald and Alex Steen. Maybe you've heard of him. Keep your eyes trained on number 91; he's probably going to get some chances right off of the bat. On the fourth line, Ryan Reaves is in while Jamie Langenbrunner is sitting this one out. Interesting call, since while games against the Wings are always high intensity, they're not exactly glove-dropping affairs, either.
If you want to get a taste of what they're saying over at Winging it in Motown, head over to their GameDay StoryStream. Friendly reminder (and they reminded their readership too), they operate by their own rules over there in the comments just like we do.