The Anaheim Ducks finished the lockout-shortened season as the second seed in the Western Conference. Their entry into the Stanley Cup playoffs was never really in doubt.
The Detroit Red Wings, on the other hand, had to fight right down to the final Saturday of the regular season in order to make the playoffs. The last time they did not qualify for the post-season was in 1990, so there was a very impressive streak on the line.
On paper, it would seem as though the Ducks are the favorites heading into this quarter-final, which begins Tuesday in Anaheim.
As one might expect, the Ducks were saying all the right things on Monday, heaping praise on the Red Wings and deflecting any heightened pressure.
“Have you listened to the media the last couple of days?” Ducks forward and captain Ryan Getzlaf told the L.A. Times.
“We are not the favorite, trust me. It’s the same story as the whole season. We’re prepared for that.”
The Red Wings, with a playoff appearance hanging dangerously in the balance down the stretch, found a way to win four straight games to close out the season.
Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has seen an improvement in his team’s play, but it always helps when you get good goaltending.
On Monday, Red Wings puck stopper Jimmy Howard was named NHL’s first star of the week after posting four straight wins – two of those being shutouts.
No, the Nashville Predators did not forget how to score goals … or at least they were lifted from that amnesia on Wednesday.
Mike Fisher lifted the curse 13:52 into the first period of tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. You can watch that rare beast in the video above.
They had been shut out for three straight games and pretty close to four in pure game time.
On this subject, PHT’s Jason Brough asked Predators GM David Poile if he was considering moving a defenseman to improve in another area earlier today.
Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.
Perhaps some of that has to do with health?
Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.
The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.
“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”
He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.
You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.
Here are the handy links for the two contests.
First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.
Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.
“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”
Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.
Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.
Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.
Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer