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Game Preview, Stars at Red Wings, 7:30 PM

You know, with all the excitement about the possibility of the Wings breaking the NHL consecutive home wins record by extending the streak to 21 tonight, I haven’t actually seen much about the game itself. Let’s see what we can find…

Mike Babcock says they practiced as if it’s just an ordinary game. “We’re going to get ready like we always do and focus on the process, and if we do good things, good things usually happen.” Henrik Zetterberg, meanwhile, says that trying to extend the streak has not gotten the team lost in hype but has instead helped them focus on playing to win. “If we want to be No. 1 in our division, we have to keep winning games. I think that helps, and now definitely, too, the streak is helping. If we made it this far, we want to have a chance to take it by ourselves tonight.”

Detroit plans on going with the same lineup they used against Anaheim and Philadelphia. Joey MacDonald will be starting.

In injury news, Danny Cleary had some more fluid drained from his knee today and hopes to resume skating in practice tomorrow. Jimmy Howard will be back by Sunday’s game against San Jose, according to Babcock, and may even be back by Friday’s game against Nashville. Johan Franzen had to have some adjustments made to one of his skates to accomodate a sore ankle, but he skated in the optional skate this morning and will definitely be in tonight.

The Stars will be without their captain, left winger Brendan Morrow, who is on injured reserve with a back injury. They may also be missing defenseman Sheldon Souray (foot). Kari Lehtonen will most likely be the starting goaltender. Dallas currently sits in 11th place in the Western Conference, trailing 8th place Phoenix by 4 points. They would certainly not be considering themselves out of playoff contention at this point and will be pretty likely to fight and claw for every point they can get.

So… here we go. The stage is set. Fox Sports Detroit Plus has the game for you.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

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Game Preview, Flyers at Red Wings, 7:30 PM

Nineteen was great, so let’s go for twenty.

Tonight the Red Wings try to tie the NHL record of 20 straight home wins when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.

Mike Babcock swears the record hasn’t been on the team’s minds, but right here on the threshold of the record? “I like the points more than anything,” Babs said. “But when you can have a record, you might as well tie it … [and] see if you can break it. But Philly’s going to be a tough opposition for us.” Coach added that he is NOT happy with the Wings’ effort in the 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim Friday night. “We’ve found ways to grind out games with good goaltending and defense and yet we think we can be better than we’ve been, and we have to be.”

Jakub Kindl, meanwhile, is most excited about his first opportunity to play against his childhood idol, Jaromir Jagr. “If I get the chance to be out there against him, I just gotta be good defensively. He’s usually a very strong guy on the puck, especially one-on-one.” Kindl hopes to get a souvenir stick from Jagr. “It feels kind of awkward for me even asking. I’m going to have to find a way somehow.”

The Red Wings will be going with the same lineup they used on Friday night. Danny Cleary remains sidelined while he recovers from a cortisone injection to his left knee. Jimmy Howard has resumed stopping shots in practice, but remains out while his broken finger heals up a bit more. Both plan on being back in the lineup for Friday night’s game against Nashville. Joey MacDonald will most likely be getting the start this evening.

The Flyers could be without goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who missed Philly’s game yesterday against the New York Rangers (a 5-2 loss) with the flu. Bryzgalov did make the trip to Detroit, but Sergei Bobrovsky is more likely to get the start. They may also be missing Jakub Voracek, who left yesterday’s game with an upper body injury. Center Blair Betts (lower body) and winger James Van Riemsdyk (concussion) will definitely be out, as of course will defenseman Chris Pronger, who has missed most of the season with knee and concussion issues.

The Flyers are likely to be feeling extremely frustrated after yesterday’s loss and should come out playing hard. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen called his teammates out yesterday. “To be honest, I think we had half the guys going, half the guys not. That was my opinion. You might have seen differently, but that’s what I saw. It was a big game for us, and I was expecting more.”

The 20 game home win record Detroit is trying to tie this evening is held jointly by the 1975-76 Flyers and the 1929-30 Bruins, so I’d also expect the Flyers to have that in mind during the game. This is likely to be a big test for Joey Mac and by extension, a test of the Wings’ ability to win games against playoff-caliber teams without Howard in net. On the other hand, the Joe has not been a friendly place to Philadelphia over the past several years; true, they did win there last year, but prior to that they were 0-16-2 in Detroit, going back to November of 1988 (including the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals).

It should be a tight one, at any rate.

I won’t have a game blog for you this evening, since I won’t be online. You can find the game on NBC Sports/Versus.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Game Preview, Oilers at Red Wings, 7:30 PM, with bonus other stuff!

Okay, you guys, you know how we all know already that the 2013 Winter Classic is going to be Red Wings vs Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium? And you know how we already know that the U of M Board of Regents approved the stadium lease to the NHL (even including beer sales)? Gary Bettman is finally ready to announce the Worst Kept Secret In Hockey (TM) tomorrow! Let’s all act surprised so the funny little troll feels gratified, okay? I know we boo him every time he shows up. Let’s throw him a bone for once. Keeps him on his toes.

Meanwhile, in the Wings’ training room… Jimmy Howard doesn’t have any real updates on his broken finger. “I got nothing for you,” he said, laughing, to reporters. “I’ve seen a doctor. I saw him this morning. It was the same news as before – it’s just going to take a little while to heal.” Tiberius did admit that he is a little concerned about losing some of his timing if he doesn’t get back in quickly. “Ideally, I’d really love a couple of good practices before I get in there,’’ Howard said. “It’s been seven days now, the timing can go away. Every single day my finger is getting better. One thing the doctor said was I’m lucky being young enough where the bone is going to (heal) faster. Hopefully by the end of the week I’m out there taking shots.”

So let’s move on to what we need to know for tonight’s game against Edmonton.

Joey MacDonald will be our starting goalie this evening. Danny Cleary will play in spite of a sore knee, and Brad Stuart has recovered sufficiently from his flu bug to play. (Meaning that Mike Commodore will be a healthy scratch.) Pavel Datsyuk will play, but will be taking only the very barest minimum of faceoffs. “He’s got a – I don’t even know – hand, wrist, forearm,” explained Mike Babcock. “He just doesn’t feel like he should take (faceoffs) right now. He can take them at key times of the game if we need him. We’re just going to back him off for a bit and get him ready to go.”

Furthermore, this will be Tomas Holmstrom’s 999th career game– not bad for the guy Scotty Bowman expected to send back to Sweden in 1998. (For those who don’t know the story, Homer told reporters he picked jersey number 96 for his draft year, and Scotty commented that he should have picked 98 instead because that’s the year he’d be done in the NHL and going back to Sweden. Even genius coaches are wrong on occasion.)

As well, the Wings are looking to extend their home winning streak to 18 games. This is the first of a six game homestand, and to say the Joe has been friendly to the Red Wings this year is an understatement. These next six games are going to be of great value to stash away points to help guarantee home ice advantage through most (or even all!) rounds of the playoffs.

The Oilers will have head coach Tom Renney back behind the bench tonight. Renney had to sit out for Monday’s 6-3 loss against Toronto after taking a puck to the head in practice that morning. Renney actually had to take the same concussion baseline tests the players do when they get knocked in the head.  “Failed it twice. It’s a good thing they had the Coke machine in Toronto or I would not have known who we played last.” The coach estimated that he had to get 12 stitches to close up the cut and thinks he’ll be okay behind the bench tonight. “I’ll be fine … if I don’t yell.”

Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start in net. Defenseman Tom Gilbert will be back in the lineup after healing his injured ankle, but Calder-candidate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will most likely be out due to a sore shoulder.

Fox Sports Detroit has our coverage for this one, 7:30 start time.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Late update: Make that Fox Sports Detroit PLUS, not regular FSD!

Game Preview: Red Wings at Predators, 8:00 PM

It’s Division Week for the Red Wings this week, and make no mistake, the Central Division is not an easy place to be this season. Take a look at the division standings as of this morning (courtesy of Yahoo! Sports):

This week, the Wings play Nashville tonight, St. Louis on Tuesday, Chicago on Friday, and St. Louis again on Saturday. Points against division rivals are going to be like gold this season. The Central is a tight, tight race this season, and these end of December points could make a huge difference in the standings come spring. This week we don’t care if we get pretty wins and Datsyukian dekes or ugly, grinding wins. We just want wins– regulation wins, so we aren’t allowing the Predators, Blues, or Blackhawks any additional help in the standings.

Tonight we have Nashville. The Wings’ last meeting with the Predators was an unpleasant 4-3 loss at Nashville on 12/15/11. The Wings are reporting that they’ll have the same lineup of skaters tonight as they went with in Calgary on Thursday, meaning Mike Commodore will be in for Jakub Kindl. Jimmy Howard will be starting in goal.

Nashville media report that the Preds will be lacking defenseman Kevin Klein (flu-like symptoms). More importantly, they may be missing defenseman Shea Weber– you know, the guy who’s mentioned in every single online discussion about who the Wings should acquire after Nick Lidstrom retires (and may that day be long in coming). Weber left practice early today, which, reports Josh Cooper of The Tennessean, “doesn’t happen often, if ever.” Trevor Thompson of Fox Sports Detroit reports on Twitter that Weber will be out for sure for tonight’s game and Ryan Ellis has been called up from the minors to take his place. Pekka Rinne is expected to start in net. (Yes, I do have him as a starter for my fantasy team for tonight… hopefully that jinx will work again like it did on 11/26.)

The Wings do have some promising news to report on the injury front. Jan Mursak is expected to be cleared to play when he gets his (formerly) broken ankle checked by doctors on Tuesday. He will be sent to Grand Rapids to play a few games as a conditioning stint. Chris Conner is also close to returning from his hand fracture. He will be seeing a hand specialist on Wednesday to determine if he’s ready to play or if he needs more time. Patrick Eaves, unfortunately, is nowhere close to returning from his broken jaw. The team doesn’t even yet have a timeline as to when he’ll be cleared to start skating again.

2 hours to puck drop. Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*