PENGUINS vs RED WINGS PREVIEW
PITTSBURGH at DETROIT
When and where –– 7:30 p.m. today, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
TV — Root
Radio — WQMU-FM 92.5
Records — Penguins 45-19-4 (94 points, first place Metropolitan Division), Red Wings 31-24-13 (75 points, fifth place Atlantic Division)
Leading scorers — Penguins: Sidney Crosby (33 goals, 58 assists, 91 points); Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg (48 points), Niklas Kronwall (35 assists), Gustav Nyquist (19 goals)
Season series — 1-0 Pittsburgh
Last meeting — Crosby scored two goals and Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists as the Penguins scored a 4-1 victory Dec. 14 in Detroit. Olli Maatta also scored for Pittsburgh. Nicklas Kronwall scored early to give the Red Wings a short-lived 1-0 lead. Jeff Zatkoff stopped 28 of 29 shots for the win.
Last time out — The Penguins distanced themselves from a troublesome weekend with a 5-1 win over Dallas at home on Tuesday. In left wing Chris Kunitz’s return to the lineup, each member of the first line — Kunitz, Crosby and Lee Stempniak — had at least a goal. Crosby had two. Zatkoff stopped 32 shots for the win. … Gustav Nyquist scored Detroit’s first two goals and the Red Wings went on to a 3-2 win over Toronto at home on Tuesday. Daniel Alfredsson scored the Wings’ other goal. Jimmy Howard made 31 saves for the win.
Notes — The Penguins got a boost in the return of Kunitz (32 goals, 29 assists, 61 points) and James Neal (22-27-49) from injuries on Tuesday and look to continue the good vibes following two losses to rival Philadelphia in a home-and-home series last weekend. Pittsburgh is five points behind Boston for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. … Crosby has seven points (four goals, three assists) in his last five games.
He leads the league in scoring, with a 17-point lead on Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, and in assists, two ahead of San Jose’s Joe Thornton. Defenseman Matt Niskanen is tied for third in the league in plus-minus (plus-31). Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (34-15-3, .916 save percentage) is tied for the league lead in wins and is tied for second in shutouts (5). Zatkoff is 11-2-1 in his past 14 games.
About the Red Wings — A playoff qualifier for 22 straight years, Detroit is in danger of snapping its postseason streak, ironically after being moved to the noticeably weaker Eastern Conference this season. The Red Wings are just one point out of the conference’s final wild card spot, but have two teams to jump — Washington and Columbus — to get there. … The Red Wings got more bad injury news with defenseman Jonathan Ericsson fracturing the middle finger of his left hand in Tuesday’s game. He had surgery Wednesday and will miss four to six weeks.
The team is already without its top two offensive threats, Zetterberg (back) and Pavel Datsyuk (knee). Zetterberg is likely out for at least the remainder of the regular season, and Datsyuk will be out at least another week. … Goaltender Jimmy Howard is 15-16-10 with a .912 save percentage.
Next — The Penguins play host to Tampa Bay at 1 p.m. Saturday.