Detroit Red Wings v St. Louis Blues

Red Wings to host Canucks without four important players

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.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.