Buffalo - January 13, 2015 -
Who: Detroit Red Wings
Where: First Niagra Center, Buffalo, NY
Know thine enemy: The injury bug has once again crept up on the Red Wings as they fight to stay near the top of the Atlantic Division. Goaltender Jimmy Howard suffered a partial groin tear on Saturday night in a loss to the Capitals. He’ll be out up to four weeks and backup Jonas Gustavsson remains out with a shoulder injury. That leaves the duties to 22-year-old Petr Mrazek (5-3-1, 2.29 goals against average, .916 save percentage) and backup Tom McCollum.
Compounding matters are injuries to Johan Franzen, Tomas Jurco and Jakub Kindl, leaving the Wings having to find answers from lesser-used players. Still, with Henrik Zetterberg (36 points in 42 games) and Pavel Datsyuk (points in six of nine) leading the way, the Red Wings will remain dangerous.
The Wings are treading water right now at 5-4-1 over their last 10, but playing the Sabres has turned out to be a remedy for what ails ya’. Still, all the pressure will be on Mrazek to hold the fort while Howard is out and keep the Wings in the thick of the playoff race.
About the Sabres: After winning 10 of 13 and seeing their confidence rise to the stratosphere, the Sabres have come crashing to Earth so hard, they sit somewhere near the outer core.
Injuries are beginning to hit the Sabres hard as well. Cody McCormick is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his calf, Brian Gionta has an upper-body injury and Marcus Foligno is out with a hand issue. Oh, and on top of that, Chris Stewart has the flu and might not be able to go. The team does get Torrey Mitchell back, but that’s about the only good news.
Honestly, the only thing worth talking about in regards to the Sabres right now is the fact that the team will be retiring Dominik Hasek’s #39 to the rafters prior to the game. You may remember Hasek from his ridiculous flops and outrageous saves as “the Dominator” for the Sabres during the 1990s, where he won a boatload of Vezina Trophies and back-to-back Harts as the league MVP. Long overdue for the Sabre legend.
The last time these two met: Buffalo managed to steal a shootout victory the first time these two met, but the Red Wings came back with a vengeance in game two. The Sabres actually held a 3-2 lead heading into the third, but the Red Wings power play would post three goals in the third period en route to a 6-3 win at The Joe.
The part where I predict things: Almost regardless of what’s going on with the opponent these days, it’s hard to pick for the Sabres. They’ve lost 11 of 12 and have gotten blown out almost every time. Injuries are depleting an already bad lineup and there’s only so much the goaltending can do at this point to stop the bleeding.
Detroit needs this to keep pace and will likely want to come out and make things easy for Mrazek. When in doubt, pick anyone but the Sabres.
Score: 4-2 Red Wings
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