This year’s iteration of the Detroit Red Wings—at least thus far—can be described as decidedly average, but can improve on that mediocrity tonight at home against a struggling Dallas Stars team.
Once Western Conference Playoff enemies, the Stars and Wings are almost mirror-images of themselves this season. While Dallas has played one more game, both squads sport two wins to go with one overtime loss and Dallas has one more regulation loss. Both teams added aging veterans to their top-six in the offseason, Dallas added Jaromir Jagr and the Wings added Mikael Samuelsson. Perhaps nothing describes each team more though than who they have missed this year.
Detroit, at one point or another, has been without Ian White, Carlo Colaiacovo, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl. On the opposite side of the ice, the Stars have missed Jagr, Jamie Benn, Derek Roy, Cristopher Nilstrop and Kari Lehtonen. If you can find two teams who have dealt with more injuries than these two, please let me know who they are.
Tonight though, it will all be about the special teams.
Keys to the Game: Detroit is one of the worst teams in the NHL on both the power-play and the penalty kill, while the Stars are clipping along a a decent rate. If the Wings are going to pull out a win tonight, they have got to be better than the 7.7-percent power-play percentage they currently sport. On top of that, they can’t surrender a goal they other way 32-percent of the time they are on the kill. Dallas is middle-of-the-road on the powerplay, converting 20-percent of their chances and continue that same trend on the PK.
Special teams, if the Wings can capitalize on their opportunities, are going to be the difference.
Hot Hand of the Night: Well, if you follow me on Twitter, you know I was right against the Minnesota Wild when I picked Todd Bertuzzi as the hot hand. For tonight though, against a Dallas team that surrenders an average of 35 shots per-game, it is hard not to pick breakout player Damien Brunner. With his slick wrist shot and a shoot-first mentality, look for him to have a big night.