The last time these two teams played in mid-March of this year, I sat on my parents' couch in stunned disbelief as Thomas Holmstrom, parked in his usual spot in front of Kiprusoff, tipped home a floating shot from the blueline on a powerplay to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead with just over a minute left to play; the victory put Detroit three points ahead of Calgary for the final playoff spot, pushing the Flames back into ninth place in the West. Tonight, six games into the season for both teams, there are no such season-defining points on the line; both teams have three victories, with the Wings collecting an extra point in an overtime loss, and both have been hit by the injury bug in the early going. While Johan "Mule" Franzen looks to draw back into the lineup tonight to wreak havoc on the Flames' defence after missing one game with a concussion, the Wings are without forwards Kris Draper and Justin Abdelkader, as well as defencemen Jonathan Ericsson and Brian Rafalski.
Another thing these two teams have in common is their recent struggles with the man advantage; Detroit is just 4/24 on the PP through five games, but not quite as poor as Calgary's meagre 2/19 conversion rate with the extra man. The Wings powerplay is always a threat regardless of any holes in their lineup, thanks to the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Lidstrom, and Henrik Zetterberg, so patience and discipline will undoubtably be a priority for the Flames, who killed off all five of Nashville's powerplay opportunities on Tuesday and held the Preds to just 21 shots 5-on-5.
Of course, Detroit is ever-dangerous, if not more so, at even strength, and has been one of the best puck possession teams in the league for years; however, if the Wings have a weakness this season, it's their bottom six, who find themselves on the wrong side of the scoring chance ledger early on. It goes without saying this tonight's contest will be the toughest test for the up-and-down Flames thus far, and it'll be interesting to see how they fare after stringing two good games together. The Flames took both games from the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena last season and have collected points in five of their last ten in the Motor City, so let's hope for a continuation of that trend this evening.
Lines and pairings:
*Brett Sutter and the recently acquired Brendan Mikkelson are healthy scratches
Enjoy the game everyone, I expect lots of Sparklepants jokes in the comments. Go Flames!