After a victory that came as somewhat of a surprise against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens have got to be feeling at least a little bit better about themselves heading into tonight's showdown with their Atlantic Division rival Detroit Red Wings.
Their 4-3 victory over the playoff-bound Ducks should have the Habs encouraged for more of the same against the Wings tonight - much to the chagrin of those hoping for a better chance in April's NHL draft lottery. It won't just be Tuesday's win lifting spirits, though, but also the likely return of both Sven Andrighetto and David Desharnais, who have been cleared for contact and practised with the team yesterday.
Tonight's meeting will give the Canadiens and Red Wings a chance to reacquaint themselves with one-another, as the two clubs have not faced off since December. With another game against each other next Tuesday, things could get very interesting.
While the Habs don't have a whole lot to play for in the final stretch of the season, tonight they are afforded the perfect opportunity to play the role of spoiler against a team in a desperate fight for a post-season appearance.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EDT
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In the Canadiens region (English): Sportsnet East
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|51.7||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||52.0|
|0.93||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.00|
Know Your Enemy
Every game matters for the Red Wings, who are in the middle of an intense battle for the final wild card spot in the Eastern conference. With the Philadelphia Flyers ahead based on games played, the Wings currently find themselves sitting in 9th in the East - putting their 24-season playoff streak in jeopardy. Needing two points tonight to not fall farther behind the Flyers, Detroit should not be lacking any motivation.
Offensively there have been no world-beaters on the Red Wings roster this season, although a number of players have had impressive years all the same. While Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are always dangerous and a threat to score whenever they have the puck, 2015-16 has been all about the Dylan Larkin show.
The 18-year-old shattered the traditional Red Wings development model, and evidently for good reason. The Michigan-native has recorded 21 goals and 43 points so far, placing him third in team scoring. Datsyuk, too, has put up 43 points but in far fewer games, playing in only 57 this year after missing the start of the season with injury.
Detroit acquired some help on the blue-line in the off-season in the form of Mike Green, who leads all Red Wings defencemen in scoring with 28 points. Niklas Kronwall provides the gritty veteran presence on the Detroit blue-line and the 35-year-old has still been able to chip in offensively with 23 points of his own.
Petr Mrazek has pushed Jimmy Howard aside and taken the reigns as the starting goaltender of the Red Wings this season, starting in 50 gamest thus far. With a .923 SV% and a record of 26-15-6 (compared to Howard's 10-11-5), it's easy to see why Detroit fans are so excited about their future in goal with the 24-year-old between the pipes.
Last Time Out
Last meeting in December, tonight's match-up represents the first between the divisional rivals in 2016. An important game for both teams - at that time both in the playoff picture - it turned out to be a very competitive contest that the Habs would do well just to mimic tonight.
After a scoreless first period the Red Wings got things going midway through the second when defenceman Jonathan Ericsson took advantage of a neutral zone turnover to spring Darren Helm into the offensive zone where he would make no mistake, potting his second goal of the season to make it 1-0 in favour of the Wings. The Habs would answer two minutes later after Charles Hudon wired a shot on goal that trickled past Mrazek before deposited in the net by Sven Andrighetto, tying things up at one.
Tomas Fleischmann would silence the Joe Louis Arena crowd in the third period after receiving a pass from David Desharnais in the slot and beating Mrazek cleanly to give the Canadiens their first lead of the evening. Things would quickly turn sour for the Habs, however, as Justin Abdelkader and Helm would score just over a minute apart to restore the Red Wings lead en route to a 3-2 victory.