Wednesday night features a showdown between the two best teams in the Western Conference. The Canucks have but runaway with the President’s Trophy this season with the Red Wings the closest team to them in the West. Anytime they faceoff against one another, it’s a great measuring stick to see where each team stands. Usually that is the case anyway. On Wednesday night, we’ll see how the Canucks matchup with a team consisting of Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins as four of Detroit’s best players will be out of the lineup. So much for the “Duel in Detroit.”
Mike Babcock confirmed at practice that Todd Bertuzzi, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Jiri Hudler will all miss Wednesday’s game due to injury. Just for a point of reference, that means four of the Red Wings top ten scorers this season will be out for the game. The missing players have accounted for 71 goals and 108 assists for 179 points this season. On top of that, defenseman Ruslan Salei will be trying to re-acclimate himself to the lineup and Chris Osgood is questionable to back up Jimmy Howard. All the sudden, the Canucks missing Manny Malhotra and Mikael Samuelsson doesn’t seem as daunting.
Ignoring the injuries, it’s still a battle between two divisional leaders who very well could be on a collision course in the playoffs and possibly even the Western Conference Finals. Easily forgotten, the Red Wings had appeared in two straight Stanley Cup finals before injuries completely derailed their season last year. Despite their fair share of injures again, they’re sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference and 4th overall this season.
On the other side of the rink, the Vancouver Canucks are the odds on favorite to make it out of the West and to the Cup Finals for the first time since 1994. They have three of the best forwards in the game (Sedins and Kesler), a deep defensive corps, and a Gold Medal winning goaltender. Yet for all of their talent, they’ve melted down the last two seasons when they faced the equally talented Chicago Blackhawks. There are plenty of people who will continue to doubt the Canucks until they can prove they can win in the playoffs.
Like the Red Wings.