Kings-Wings on rivalry night! More like rhyme-alry, amirite? No? Okay, fine. I don't understand why this is a "rivalry", unless for some reason NBC thinks that one thing over a decade ago is still fresh in everybody's minds. (Before you get irate: yes, the Frenzy was very special, but I don't think a strong argument can be made that it fomented what could be called a real rivalry.) But hey, the Kings get to be on national TV against the Red Wings and that has worked out for them lately, right? No? Damn.
I'm not going to talk about the Kings' last game versus the Wings because we all remember how that one went down, and I was there, and I'm still kind of mad about it. Let's set the stage for this game instead: the Kings are coming off of a 5-2 victory against Anaheim, while Detroit put eight past Luongo in a decisive victory in their last game. The Wings sit eighth in the West, with 19 GP and 21 points, while a full slate of games last night bumped the Kings back down to tenth, with 17 GP and 20 points. The last game between these teams didn't turn out the way we wanted it to, but it featured some pretty good hockey, so at least we can look forward to that.
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Enemy reading: Winging it in Motown
Red Wings (projected) lineup:
Injured: Filppula (shoulder), Samuelsson (finger), Helm (back), Bertuzzi (back), Colaiacovo (being Carlo Colaiacovo/shoulder)
Kings (projected) lineup:
Injured: Greene (back), Mitchell (knee), Martinez (too beautiful for this world/upper body)
Gone from whence he came: Gagne
- Every team has good games and bad games, but the Red Wings have been a particularly hard team to gauge this season, at least by eye. At times they've looked slow and porous, losing games not because of bad bounces but just getting beaten. At other times they've looked pretty good - they were quite effective in their last game against the Kings, although it took a standout performance from Jimmy Howard to seal that win. The numbers tell us that the Wings are still the Wings, even without Lidstrom. Although their PDO is a fairly high 1.017, their Fenwick Close % also indicates that they're a good possession team and regression isn't going to bring their performance crashing down.
- That being said, the Kings' FenClose% is 59.67, which is 2007-08 Red Wings-esque - aka pretty, pretty damn good. The third period against the Ducks last game was a nice illustration of just how dominant the Kings can be, albeit against a much poorer puck-possession team than the Wings. If you haven't yet, take a look at Robert's breakdown, which really hits home how thoroughly the Kings won that game.
- The Wings have a whole pile of injuries, but their major offensive threats remain in the lineup. Rookie Damien Brunner has slotted in nicely to the top line (getting fed passes by Henrik Zetterberg must be a hard life, huh?), and Dan Cleary has been on some kind of weird PP scoring tear.
- As you've probably heard, the Kings traded Simon Gagne for a conditional third-round draft pick, so let's all take a moment to a)wish Simon happy trails as he returns to his spiritual home of Philadelphia and b)implore the rest of the forwards not to get injured, ever, because that lack of depth is starting to look a little grim.
- Speaking of injuries, Dean Lombardi talked a little bit about what's going on with half the Kings' defencemen. Alec Martinez, initially forecast to be out two to four weeks, has been out two already, but the "original prognosis still holds". He's been skating and progressing, so we may see him in the next two weeks. Matt Greene "might" be a little ahead of his recovery schedule, but we still won't see him again until the end of the season, if at all. Willie Mitchell recently said "something fairly positive" to the Kings' trainer in terms of "possibly" coming back, but he's still having medical procedures done and there is still no timetable for his return.
- Who needs those guys, though, when we have Jake Muzzin? Muzzin played certainly one of his best games as a King against the Ducks, including scoring that slick goal. We'll see if he can maintain this higher level of performance going forward, but I thought it was worth a little acknowledgment. Good job, Jakey buddy.
- Finally, our special teams fun with numbers: Detroit is ranked 20th on the PP at 16.5% and 24th on the PK at 76.9%, while the Kings are now 23rd/15.2% and 17th/80.8%. Last game, the Kings had one power play and scored on it, but also looked ghastly on the penalty kill. Plenty of teams seem to experience the "only one special teams unit can be good in a game" phenomenon, but it's still a little frustrating to see. Hope for progress tonight!
- Go Kings Go