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Red Wings-Blues game-day update: Howard starts and Babcock’s line tweaks continue

As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the St. Louis Blues tonight (8 PM EST, FSD/FS Midwest/WXYT), Wings coach Mike Babcock suggested that he plans on continuing to throw the Wings’ forward lines combos into a blender, albeit with one big exception, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:

After today’s optional morning skate, coach Mike Babcock said the only lineup change has Kris Draper back in. He wouldn’t say who will sit out. Babcock also would not reveal his line combinations, except to say that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be split up on the road and play together at home.

“I’m going to try to have one set I use at home and one set on the road,’’ Babcock said. “I’m trying to get it so that everybody is comfortable with playing with whoever. You just play. The other thing is a player doesn’t want to come to the rink every day and play with a different linemate. That’s why I’d like to have two scenarios and that’s it. It’s important to be able to go back and forth with matchups at playoff time.’‘

Khan reports that Jimmy Howard will start opposite Jaroslav Halak, and he estimates that the Wings will continue to employ the Stuart-Kronwall and Lidstrom-Ericsson defensive pairings against the following Blues lineup:

Andy McDonald-David Backes-Matt D’Agostino

T.J. Hensick-Patrik Berglund-Chris Stewart

Chris Porter-T.J. Oshie-B.J. Crombeen

Cam Janssen-Adam Cracknell-Ryan Reaves

Carlo Colaiacovo-Alex Pietrangelo

Ian Cole-Kevin Shattenkirk

Nikita Nikitin-Roman Polak

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan believes that Drew Miller will sit out tonight’s game…

Jimmy Howard will get the start tonight against the St. Louis Blues.

There was some thought coach Mike Babcock would go with Joey MacDonald in this second game in two nights. But Howard wasn’t overly worked last night, and played extremely well after allowing a soft goal to Ryan Jones in the first period.

Kris Draper is also in the lineup, with Drew Miller out, as that rotation continues.

And the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who believes that Babcock will go back to the Lidstrom-Stuart and Kronwall-Ericsson pairings on defense, noted that Babcock very politely requested to see more in the way from the team’s biggest forwards—and a player who might center them—again:

Henrik Zetterberg leads the Wings in scoring with 69 points overall but has just two goals his past 24 games.

Johan Franzen has a team-leading 27 goals, but only one in the past 17 games. Valtteri Filppula has two goals in his past 14 games. Todd Bertuzzi has gone 10 games without a goal, though in fairness, it was a bad call by officials to deny the one he scored Friday against Edmonton.

Zetterberg does have 18 assists during that same 24-game stretch, and coach Mike Babcock especially liked the way Bertuzzi and Franzen played against the Oilers.

“I thought Mule last night was as physical and as dominant on the puck as he’s been in a long time,” Babcock said this morning. “I thought the same of Bertuzzi last night, and that’s what we need from those guys. Now Fil, I didn’t think that of Fil.”

She also provides good news on the injury front:

In injury update news, Brian Rafalski (back spasms) is expected to play Wednesday, and Chris Osgood (sports hernia) is likely for Wednesday or Thursday.

Osgood remained in Detroit to work with goalie coach Jim Bedard. Patrick Eaves (groin) remains out indefinitely.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford both confirms Khan’s presumptive lineup and offers the following comment about tonight’s match-up from Blues coahc Davis Payne…

The Blues will put a three-game winning streak on the line against Detroit, which ended a four-game winless streak Friday with a 2-1 overtime win over Edmonton. The Red Wings have won only three of their last nine games (3-4-2). Still, Detroit is ranked No. 2 in the Western Conference standings with 88 points and has a record of 22-9-4 on the road this season, tied for the most points in the NHL.

“We have to take the imprint that we laid out against Montreal and continue forward with that,” Payne said. “It was probably our most complete decision and positional game in quite some time. That’s the kind of game you have to play against skilled opponents and opponents that can counter quickly and can make things happen. Detroit’s obviously one of those.”

As well as a bit about Andy McDonald’s successful return from a concussion:

Tonight’s game against Detroit will be McDonald’s 20th back in the lineup, and in his previous 19, he has 21 points (nine goals and 12 assists). McDonald had a three-point performance in Thursday’s 4-1 win over Montreal, his second three-point game in his last 12 outings. He has netted at least two points in six of his 19 games back.

“He’s come back with a renewed determination to make a difference,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “He’s really setting an example, and from a preparation standpoint, he’s a guy that does all the right things and is ready to go.”

On the season, McDonald now has 17 goals and 38 points. That’s seven goals and 12 points shy of the Blues’ leader in both categories, David Backes, and McDonald missed two months with his concussion.

For the record: I finally ended up falling asleep at all of 1 in the afternoon, so I missed these updates by a few hours while getting my first post-H2H2 sleep. Sorry!

Update: The Windsor Star’s Bob Duff also fired off a prolific set of “tweets” via his Twitter account this morning:

#redwings 0-3-2 in last 5 GP at Scotttrade Centre. #Blues #NHL
#blues C Andy McDonald has 9-12-21 totals in his last 19 games. #NHL
#blues G Jaroslav Halak has a 2.29 GAA and .922 save % on Saturday’s this season. #NHL
#blues Chris Stewart 9 goals and 3 assists in last 12 games including 5 PPG. #NHL
Ex- #Spitfires Cam Janssen of #blues collected 1st pt of season with A Feb. 25 vs. #oilers. Has gone more than 2 yrs w/o G (Jan. 15, 2009)
#redwings G Jimmy Howard 16-3-2 (2.65 GAA, .915 SV%) in 23 road appearances this season. #NHL
All 3 of #redwings D Jonathan Ericsson’s G this season have been scored on Saturday.
#redwings C Mike Modano’s next GP will tie him with Wayne Gretzky for 15th place in NHL history (1,487).
#redwings C Mike Modano’s next goal will tie him with Guy Lafleur for 23rd place in NHL history (560). #NHL
#redwings C Mike Modano’s next assist will tie him with Pierre Turgeon for 28th place in #NHL history (812).
#redwings coach Mike Babcock needs 3 W to join Scotty Bowman (321) & Glen Sather (307) as only #NHL coaches with 300 W over 6 yr span.
#redwings Dan Cleary pointless in last 5 GP. #NHL

When Duff does “tweet,” he reminds everybody why he’s the resident Elias Sports Bureau’s statistician on the Wings’ beat.

Update 2: Also, per NHL.com’s Corey Masisak:

DETROIT (40-20-8, 88 points) AT ST. LOUIS (31-28-9 71 points)

Where they stand: The Red Wings are second in the West while the Blues are in 13th place.

What’s at stake: Detroit could expand its lead on San Jose for the No. 2 seed to five points or see it dwindle to as few as one. St. Louis could move to within eight points of eighth place.

How it’s going: The Red Wings had lost four in a row before escaping with a 2-1 victory against Edmonton. The Blues have won three in a row.

Upcoming: Detroit has six of its next eight games at Joe Louis Arena. St. Louis has a four-game trip to play the three California teams and Phoenix up next.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


cainer4wingsglory's avatar

Thank god for PVR’s because I haven’t been able to stomach a full Wings game since the Mule’s 5 goal outburst….

Posted by cainer4wingsglory on 03/12/11 at 07:41 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Now Fil, I didn’t think that of Fil.”

That’s gonna leave a mark.

Thank you George.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/12/11 at 08:08 PM ET

SYF's avatar

#redwings G Jimmy Howard 16-3-2 (2.65 GAA, .915 SV%) in 23 road appearances this season.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 03/12/11 at 09:58 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.