Both the New York Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings come into tonight’s game at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) with plenty to play for. The Rangers want to keep the red hot Penguins off their back in the race for the top spot in the East while the Red Wings would like to get back to winning games and stay ahead of the Nashville Predators.
The slide the Red Wings are in right now is their worst of the season. Detroit has lost five in a row and 10 of their last 13 games. While the Blues have taken control of the Central Division, somehow the Wings haven’t fallen out of fourth in the West with both Nashville and Chicago chasing them thanks to both of those teams dealing with struggles of their own. Don’t let that fool you, things are bad for Detroit right now.
Jimmy Howard tweaked his nagging groin injury again and is out of tonight’s game. Add to that that Joey MacDonald has a back problem and Ty Conklin is on re-entry waivers to try and start tonight, things are bad in goal. With Nicklas Lidstrom skating but not ready to return to action as well as other injuries to Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jakub Kindl it’s no wonder the Wings are losing. That’s not stopping coach Mike Babcock from demanding better of his defense as they’ll need to be at their best to beat New York.
The Rangers are in paradise compared to where the Red Wings are at. New York has already clinched their berth in the playoffs and while coach John Tortorella is busy in his war of words with the Devils, the team is rounding back into form after recent struggles. Getting a win over the Devils was the Rangers third in their last five games. New York too has been dealing with some nagging injuries to Ryan Callahan, Michael Del Zotto but have seen those two come back and play well of late.
With Henrik Lundqvist in goal, however, the Rangers have a distinct advantage over either Conklin or Jordan Pearce for Detroit. Lundqvist will still have his hands full dealing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, however. Falling asleep on those guys could help give Detroit the boost they desperately need.