The Detroit Red Wings will hit the road Tuesday night for their final regular season meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers. In their first year as conference opponents, the teams have split their first two meetings of the season. Detroit beat Philadelphia 5-2 back in October but the Flyers got revenge nearly two months later as they beat the Red Wings 6-3.
With just six games left before the Olympic break, the outcome of this game is huge for both teams. The Red Wings are clinging on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Flyers are trailing by just one point in the standings.
Things are starting to look on the down-side for Detroit once again. Johan Franzen is back on the injured list with concussion-like symptoms. Franzen missed the previous 16 games, because of the same injury, before returning to the ice Sunday against the Florida Panthers. Henrik Zetterberg will miss his second straight game with a sore back, he is listed day-to-day. Jimmy Howard was originally expected to make his return from a knee injury tonight but says he won’t return until Friday night.
However, there are some things that are going well for the Red Wings. Joakim Andersson will return to the lineup, in place of Franzen, after missing six games with a lower-body injury. Andersson will most likely center between Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader.
Nyquist has been on a tear lately. The silky-handed youngster is riding a four-game goal streak and has recorded seven points in the last five games.
Jonas Gustavsson will make his fourth-consecutive start in net tonight against the Flyers. He has filled in for Howard quite nicely, posting a 2-0-1 record. Gustavsson has not lost during regulation in his last six starts, dating back to December 19th (5-0-1).
Prior to Sunday’s third period collapse, it looked like the Red Wings were finally coming together as a team. Despite countless injuries to their veteran players, Detroit’s youngsters fought their hardest to hold the team together. Heading into Sunday’s matchup with the Panthers the Wings won three of their last four, including victories over the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks.
Now, after blowing a 4-2 lead late in the third period to the Panthers, questions are beginning to rise to the surface once again. Detroit is without their two leading scorers and it’s possible that Pavel Datsyuk won’t return until after the Olympic break.
These final six games are crucial for the Red Wings, they need to be in control of a playoff spot heading into the break. If they can return from the break with a healthy lineup and a playoff spot in their grasps, their playoff-streak will continue for another year. That process starts tonight in a fast-paced, hard-hitting, high-scoring game against the Flyers.