UPDATE: Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi are now questionable for tonight's game, Johan Franzen is expected to miss the contest with Jiri Hudler upgraded to probable for the Red Wings.
The top two teams in the Western Conference will tangle Wednesday when the league-leading Vancouver Canucks mosey over to Motown for a meeting with the Central Division-leading Detroit Red Wings. The Verizon network will televise the game from Joe Louis Arena beginning at 4:35 p.m. (PT).
Detroit leads the season series, 2-1, and is 6-2 in the last eight head-to-head matchups. In addition, the Red Wings are 5-2 against the Canucks in the last seven meetings at Joe Louis Arena, with the ‘over’ going 4-1 in the last five.
The initial meeting this season (Nov. 6) saw the Canucks outlast the Wings as 140 home favorites, 6-4. The combined 10 goals soared ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. Vancouver outshot the Wings, 37-28, and was 2-for-5 on the power play. Detroit was 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Detroit got its revenge in the Dec. 22 rematch with a 5-4 overtime victory as a 145 home favorite. The combined nine goals again skipped ‘over’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. The Wings outshot the Canucks, 45-39, and again went 1-for-4 on the power play. Vancouver was 2-for-3 with the man advantage.
The most recent meeting (Jan. 8) saw the Wings register a 2-1 shootout win as 165 road underdogs. This was the lone game to dip ‘under’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. Vancouver outshot Detroit, 35-33, with both clubs going 1-for-5 on the power play.
Vancouver holds the scheduling advantage in this spot, as the club has not played since having its seven-game winning streak snapped by Phoenix last Friday.
The Canucks suffered a 3-1 setback as hefty 200 home favorites, with the combined four goals ducking ‘under’ the 5 ½-goal closing total. That ended Vancouver’s string of five straight ‘over’ outings.
Vancouver had scored three goals or more in seven consecutive outings prior to last Friday’s setback. The onslaught of goals has solidified the club’s No. 1 offensive ranking at 3.2 goals per game.
Putting the puck in the opposition’s net isn’t the lone skill Vancouver possesses. The squad is also tops in the league defensively, allowing an average of 2.3 GPG.
The Canucks also own the league’s best power play (24.8 percent) and penalty kill (86.0 percent).
Though the Red Wings are in the midst of a slump that has seen them drop six of their last 10 outings, they collected an unexpected point Monday during a 5-4 shootout loss against Pittsburgh as 170 home favorites.
The Wings fought back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the third period before losing in the third shootout round.
The loss lowered Detroit’s home record to 19-11-3-2, which is actually poorer than its 24-10-2-2 road ledger.
Jimmy Howard was yanked out of the Detroit net after the fourth goal, but did not suffer the loss because the Wings tied the game while he was on the bench. The 27-year-old netminder is 34-14-3-2 with an unimpressive .279 GAA and .908 save percentage.
Injuries are always a concern this time of year, and both the Canucks and Wings will not be at 100 percent for Wednesday’s game.
Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, who leads the NHL in scoring with 38 goals and 55 assists for 93 points, will not travel with the team because his wife is giving berth to their third child.
Additionally, third-line center Manny Malhotra will miss the remainder of the regular season and playoffs with an eye injury suffered last Wednesday against Colorado.
The Don Best Sports injury report is also showing three Red Wings are “questionable” for Wednesday’s nationally televised affair. Center’s Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Jiri Hudler (upper body) have each missed the last two games, while left winger Johan Franzen (groin) missed Monday’s contest.
Vancouver remains on its four-game road trip Friday with a stop in Atlanta to play the Thrashers. Detroit continues its five-game homestand Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.