GAME DAY: Detroit
The Blue Jackets and Red Wings meet up in a battle of two teams playing solid hockey
BLUE JACKETS (8-12-4) VS. RED WINGS (12-8-4)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
2 P.M. TODAY
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Detroit Red Wings heard people say they were getting older and couldn't keep pace with the injuries that have ravaged their lineup, but their play of late indicates that the words went in one ear and out the other.
Coach Mike Babcock may not have his full complement of players on hand but the club hasn't missed a beat in the last few weeks. Added to the injuries is a lack of scoring from the Red Wings' top players, but when you're playing defensive hockey as well as Detroit has of late, all you need is a goal or two to come out with victories. The Red Wings are 5-1-1 in their last seven games and have given up just eight goals in those games, and are coming off a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers two nights ago at Joe Louis Arena.
With a bottom six comprised mostly of young players and call-ups from their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings have slowly start a rise up the Western Conference standings and have leap-frogged the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division, which is a mighty 17 points behind the regulation-unbeaten Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit has won back-to-back games though it has struggled away from home ice this season, and earned two big points on the road last week in a 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.
One might think a lineup missing Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and other key components would battle inconsistency, but the Red Wings haven't shown many dents in the armor. Howard boasts a 1.15 goals-against average over the past six games, and though he's not expected to start Saturday's matinee against the Blue Jackets (Babcock indicated that Jonas Gustavsson will play in Columbus, and Howard will start Sunday in Detroit), he has given the Red Wings nothing to worry about between the pipes in their latest hot streak.
The Blue Jackets, winners of three straight games, look to make it a perfect 4-0 home stand this afternoon in kicking off a home-and-home set with Detroit. Sergei Bobrovsky is the expected starter in goal for Columbus, which is coming off a 2-1 overtime win over Vancouver on Thursday night.
- The Blue Jackets have accumulated points in five consecutive games and are 3-0-2 in that stretch. The last three have been wins over Colorado, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Columbus is now 4-3-2 in one-goal games this season.
- Columbus looks for its first season series win over the Red Wings in franchise history this weekend. The Blue Jackets have won two of the first three meetings in the five-game set with a 2-0-1 record in those games.
- Nick Foligno has five assists in the past five games after producing only six points on two goals and four assists in the first 19 games.
- Penalty killing has been a strength for the Blue Jackets, and they have not allowed a power play goal against in eight straight games - the longest such stretch in franchise history. The previous best was a seven-game streak back in November-December 2001.
LEFT WING | #93
2013 STATS: 4-6-10, 17 GP
The big man known more commonly as "The Mule" has long been a thorn in the Blue Jackets' side and though he hasn't produced at the level he's accustomed to this season, he's a perpetual threat on the ice against Columbus. Franzen has one goal in his past five games (Mar. 5 vs. Colorado) but he's starting to get back to his game of going hard to the net and shooting the puck at will. If Franzen can get back on track, the Red Wings will have fewer concerns on the offensive side of the puck.
DETROIT: Valtteri Fippula (shoulder), out; Darren Helm (back), out; Carlo Colaiacovo (shoulder), out; Todd Bertuzzi (back), out; Mikael Samuelsson (finger), out