There are two things that seem to define today: an unusual amount of afternoon games and a slew of returning stars.
Add Pavel Datsyuk to that list, as he’s back in action for the Detroit Red Wings as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Datsyuk had been sidelined since March 15 with a lower-body injury.
Things have been shaky for the Red Wings lately (especially in net), so getting a two-way star like Datsyuk to return is a big deal. He’s been his usual dominant self when healthy this season, managing 23 goals and 58 points in 57 games played.
March is shaping up to be pretty lousy for Detroit.
The Red Wings, 4-7-1 this month, have now lost the services of yet another forward as Riley Sheahan has been ruled out for “a bit” with an upper-body injury, per head coach Mike Babcock.
Detroit was already without Erik Cole and Pavel Datsyuk — though the latter could return to the lineup this weekend — so the Sheahan loss really compounds things. Prior to getting hurt, the 23-year-old had 12 goals and 34 points in 73 games and was playing quite a bit, averaging 15:38 TOI per night.
To be fair to Detroit, there’s not an awful lot to play for at the moment as the club is pretty much locked into the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic. Catching Montreal or Tampa Bay for one of top two spots is a tall order, and it’s unlikely any of Ottawa, Boston or Florida will push the Red Wings for third.
Still, the month of March has to be somewhat concerning, given no team wants to go into the postseason slumping (and there’s also the issue of goalie Jimmy Howard, who’s been inconsistent.)
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Will the top pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft be dealt? Probably not, but it’s happened before. Here’s a look back at previous trades that involved the first overall selection. (Grantland)
Meanwhile a Buffalo restaurant has “The Tank” drinks named after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. (QMI Agency)
Here are the highlights from Chicago’s 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday:
The Women’s World Championship is set to begin on Saturday. Here’s a look at the Team USA squad aiming to defend its gold from 2013 (there wasn’t a World Championship in 2014 due to the Olympics). (Hockey Wilderness)
Here’s a bit of an oddity: The 2014-15 Vancouver Canucks might have set the NHL record for the most empty-net goals in a single season. (Vancouver Sun)
The struggling Detroit Red Wings will be without Erik Cole tonight. Niklas Kronwall and Pavel Datsyuk might play though. (MLive.com)
Although the Los Angeles Kings don’t currently occupy a playoff spot, confidence isn’t something they lack. (The Globe and Mail)
NBC will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Detroit Red Wings host the St. Louis Blues at Joe Louis Arena at noon p.m. ET today. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
The St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings don’t clash anywhere near as often with Detroit now in the Eastern Conference, yet it’s probably safe to say that the teams – and especially the fans – still can’t stand each other.
Both squads should have added motivation this afternoon because they both need to steady themselves. Each team has lost two in a row, with the Blues needing to shrug off a lopsided loss to Minnesota and the Red Wings also dropping six of their last eight.
St. Louis is currently 2-1-1 on a six-game road swing that concludes in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Red Wings begin a four-game homestand in Detroit today.
The Red Wings beat the Blues 3-2 in OT the last time these two teams met (on Jan. 15). Pavel Datsyuk was the player who scored the game-winner, and he won’t play today, according to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan.
Jake Allen saw some action after Brian Elliott was unceremoniously pulled from yesterday’s Blues loss, so one would think that Allen will start. Jimmy Howard seems likely to play in Detroit’s net.
Elliott on facing Detroit: "Going into that rink with that atmosphere and the history that’s in there – it’s going to be another battle."
While the Red Wings aim to stay sharp with their position as the third-ranked team in the Atlantic Division fairly well set, the Blues hope to earn a little breathing room in their race to take the Central Division crown from the Nashville Predators.
The two former division foes will meet for the second and last time today, so expect quality over quantity on NBC.
In three games now this season, the Detroit Red Wings have been unable to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. That could be a problem in a few weeks time.
In what could be a preview of a potential first-round playoff match-up, the Lightning scored twice in the third period, including an empty net goal from Steven Stamkos for his 40th of the season, in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Red Wings.
The Red Wings are now 0-2-1 against the Lightning this season. The final regular season meeting is next Saturday.