Updated 3x at 1:50 PM: The Detroit Red Wings battle the Minnesota Wild this evening, and the morning skate revealed that Jimmy Howard will face Devan Dubnyk, and DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji revealed that the Wings are going to make some tweaks to their forward lines:
#RedWings in morning skate: Bertuzzi-Zetterberg-Nyquist
Witkowski-Glendening-Booth (Frk working in)
The Wild’s media have already filed game-day articles, with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Sarah McLellan focusing on the Wild’s 2-game losing streak vs. Detroit…
This is the first time the Wild has dropped two straight in regulation since Dec. 22 and 23; the team hasn’t lost three in a row since Nov. 4-8 – the only time that’s happened this season. What made the defeats in Arizona and Colorado surprising is they came on the heels of impressive wins over the Sharks and Blues – the latter a 8-3 rout.
“We had three bad periods,” [coach Bruce] Boudreau said. “It’s a grind. I’m not letting the players off the hook, but you can’t be great all the time. We gave them one scoring chance in Arizona until the third period. We got a couple against us, and it just snowballed into Colorado. We’ll forget about that and start to play the way we’re capable of today.”
Captain Mikko Koivu and center Eric Staal didn’t skate Sunday morning, but both are OK, Boudreau said. It also looks like defenseman Nate Prosser will be back in the lineup after sitting out Friday, a decision that gives the Wild a more experienced blue line against a Detroit squad it hasn’t faced since the first game of the season.
“If you look at their forward lines, they’re pretty good,” Boudreau said of the Red Wings. “They got great speed, and they’ve been built on speed for years and that’s what they do. I think it’s important to get the lead on them and play the way we’re capable of playing. It’s gonna be a hard-fought game because no game is easy anymore.”
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Daniel Winnik
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
The Wild’s website’s Dan Myers also filed a game-day article…
One of the best teams in the League at home, the Wild quickly has a chance to redeem itself following its first consecutive regulation losses since before Christmas.
“You fall off the horse, you get back on and ride ‘er again. That’s what we have to do,” said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. “We had three bad periods in my mind in the last little while. People are making a mountain out of a mole hill here. We’ll get back to it, back to our game.”
The Wild has lost in regulation just twice at Xcel Energy Center since Nov. 14, posting a 19-2-5 record during that stretch.
For the season, Minnesota has a 22-5-6 mark in St. Paul, with its 50 points tied for the most in the League.
“It seems like we’ve gotten opportunities to come back after games like that. No question we’ll do the same. That’s just not our team,” said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “We’ve played extremely well for a long period of time here and we know why. It always helps being at home here but it doesn’t make anything automatic. We have to be able to get back to work and play the way we’re capable of playing.”
The Star-Tribune’s Brian Murphy filed an article profiling Nino Niederreiter…
You can understand his frustration at missing 13 games over two stretches because of separate high-ankle sprain and bone-bruise injuries and the reality that he will never be 100 percent again this season.
Entering Sunday night’s game against Detroit, Niederreiter, who averaged 20 goals among 43 points his first four seasons with the Wild, only had two goals and two assists in 15 games since returning to the lineup a second time two months ago.
“You need to learn to not get frustrated with yourself,” he said before the game. “I’m tough on myself. I always want to be great and score goals. When things don’t always go your way it can be frustrating. I like to put myself on the highest standard possible. If you don’t want achieve what you want to achieve you get impatient with yourself.”
Pro Hockey Talk’s Scott Billeck filed a game preview…
In terms of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Detroit Red Wings’ chances of earning a postseason berth tucked nicely between incredibly slim and nil.
With 18 games left coming into Sunday’s action, the Red Wings sit seven points behind the surging Carolina Hurricanes in the battle for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, and there are four other teams in front of them vying for that same spot, with two of those on lengthy winning streaks.
They’re, of course, not mathematically eliminated, but if they lose their third straight game on Sunday in Minnesota against the Wild, mathematics may just become a formality in what’s been a disappointing season for Detroit.
The Wild, meanwhile, enter the game sporting the same two-game losing streak as the Red Wings, but with much more on the line.
Minnesota got beat by the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and then followed that up with getting rocked 7-1 by the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
Both losses, including Friday’s embarrassment, came on the road, where the Wild have been far from productive. Sunday’s game brings Minnesota back to Xcel Energy Center, where they sport one of the best home records in the league.
A lengthy losing streak in the Central Division can spell disaster for postseason hopes (just ask the St. Louis Blues), and with the Anaheim Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche vying alongside the Wild for one of the two wildcard spots, Minnesota is well aware the bleeding needs to stop.
In the multimedia department, the Wild posted a morning skate clip in which coach Bruce Boudreau, Devan Dubnyk and Jared Spurgeon address tonight’s game…
On the Red Wings’ side of the ice…
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) March 4, 2018
Update #2: From Jessi Pierce, writing for NHL.com:
The Game: The Minnesota Wild will try to move into third place in the Central Division when they play the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday.
Minnesota owns the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but the Wild can move past the Dallas Stars into third place in the division with one point against the Red Wings. The Wild are home after losing back-to-back road games in which they were outscored 12-4.
Detroit has lost back-to-back games and is 2-4-1 in its past seven. The Red Wings are seven points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
Players to watch: Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past 13 games.
Wild forward Eric Staal has 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his past seven games and 18 (11 goals, seven assists) in his past 13.
They said it: “[Minnesota’s] got a good record in this building. They’re big bodies, they’re hard around your net. [Eric] Staal’s been a great signing for them, [Mikko] Koivu’s one of the best two-way players in the League … they’ve got a real good d-corps and a real good goalie [Devan Dubnyk], so we know it will be a challenge but for us it’s about controlling our own play and if we play our best hockey we’ll take on anybody.” — Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill
Update #3: Among DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji’s notes:
Having lost the last two games, the Red Wings are shaking things up a little bit. In the morning skate at Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center, the lines looked like this:
Tyler Bertuzzi-Henrik Zetterberg-Gustav Nyquist
Justin Abdelkader-Dylan Larkin-Anthony Mantha
Andreas Athanasiou-Frans Nielsen-Darren Helm
Luke Witkowski-Luke Glendening-David Booth (Martin Frk extra)
“Z’s line’s been real good, but we need more lines going,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We’re hoping to get a little bit more net presence on each line and we’ll see if it will give us a spark.”
Previously, the lines were set up this way:
“I think that looking at how the lines are set up, we have net front guys on each line that go to the net,” Abdelkader said. “We gotta continue to get pucks around the nets and make it hard on the goalie. I thought we did a better job last game, but we need to continue if you want to score goals in this league. Get pucks there and get bodies to the net. It’s a little change but I think guys will be ready to go tonight. Obviously we want to flush the last couple of games out. It’s been close but not quite good enough. We’ve got a team tonight that’s really good on home ice, so we got to be prepared to come out with our best.”