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The Rangers begin a five game road trip tonight at the Joe Louis Arena against Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings that will eventually end in Buffalo playing against whoever the hell still plays for the Sabres. The Rangers' road record this season coming into tonight's contest is 18-10-1, and in the season series between these original six franchises, the home team has won both games that were played (the Rangers' victory was an OT victory). Will we see the Rangers win the season series tonight at the Joe in Yandle's first road game as a Blueshirt?
The Red Wings are currently third in the Atlantic Division and and fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 35-15-11. They have gone 5-3-2 in their last ten games but have gone up some very stiff competition lately. They are currently coming off of a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators and have added veterans Erik Cole and Marek Zidlicky to the fold. There was plenty of buzz about the Red Wings trying to land Dion Phaneuf or another big d-man on or before deadline day, but none of it panned out for the Wings. So for now Detroit is going with veteran rental players that they hope will make all the difference in their push to the playoffs and beyond. Sounds like a radical, bold new strategy for them, doesn't it?
- Pavel Datsyuk- 22 G, 29 A
- Henrik Zetterberg- 15 G, 34 A
- Tomas Tatar- 25 G, 21 A
How about Tatar's season, huh? Tatar has brought some invaluable offense into the fold for the Wings and has been a big part of the success of their offense. If the Red Wings can stay (or get) healthy by the time the puck drops on 2015 Playoff hockey, they could be a nightmare match up for any team in the 2015 Playoffs. Even when they are shorthanded one or two top six forwards for long stretches of time Mike Babcock seems to find a way to wring every bit of effort, skill, and chemistry out of his lineup to make sure it stays the course and keeps winning games. Make no mistake, the Red Wings are a tough way to start this five game road trip for the Rangers and this game will be a big test for the Rangers, even after their resounding victory over the Preds.
The Red Wings have the best power play in the NHL right now and have the seventh ranked offense and defense in regards to the goals they score and surrender per sixty minutes. I'm not much a strategical mastermind, but something tells me that giving the Red Wings power play opportunities in abundance tonight would be a very, very bad idea. Both the Rangers and the Red Wings are among the best in the league in regards to discipline. Both clubs are in the top seven clubs in the lowest PIMs per game. This could be one of those games that gets determined by special teams, but something tells me that a big part of tonight's game will be which goalie does more to get their team two points tonight.
One of the story lines tonight for the Red Wings is the status of their captain. Henrik Zetterberg is listed as questionable for tonight's game due to suffering a recent concussion but I wouldn't be surprised if the Red Wings' captain returns tonight for his team. However, the Red Wings will be without Johan Franzen (concussion issues), Darren Helm, and Alexey Marchenko tonight. If Zetterberg is in the lineup, he'll likely be centering Erik Cole and Justin Abdelkader on the second line.
Sheppard is expected to take Glass’ spot as the fourth line left wing, though he has played all three forward positions and mainly played on the third line with the Sharks.
The acquisition of Sheppard might have gotten lost in the shenanigans of the Keith Yandle blockbuster deal, but Sheppard plugging into the Rangers' fourth line may have a much bigger impact on the team than one might think. The first thing it does, if the forwards stay healthy and if the coaching staff continues to use Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller (as they should) is that Tanner Glass will be a healthy scratch with a lot more frequency. The other thing that Sheppard brings to the bottom six is a solid two-way game and a big body. There's a reason why Sather was willing to part ways with a fourth round pick to land him. Shep can be a huge boon to the depth and balance of this team moving forward.
So there you have it Rangers fans. A quick preview on tonight's original six match up against the octopi-loving Red Wings. Oh, and in case you guys haven't already checked it out, take a look at the outstanding game preview they have over at Winging it in Motown for tonight's game:
They think they're so much better than me with their charts and math... they're probably right.
Let's go Rangers.