The Blues're still without T.J. Oshie tonight, and the Wings are out a Tomas Holmstrom. It's a battle of the coaching geniuses tonight in Joe Louis Arena, as Ken HItchcock wants to keep the Blues on a roll, and Mike Babcock has to have the Wings continue their ten game winning streak at home.
Note: this is another Versus telecast (two in a row!), so the game'll start early at 6:30 Central.
Between Red Wings coach Mike Babcock stating that the Blues and Red Wings don't have a rivalry, and St. Louis Game Time honcho Brad Lee stating the same thing (albiet for different, much snarkier reasons) one might think that what goes on between the teams is driven by fan dislike for each other. Maybe even a little, according to some Detroit fans, of this rivalry is all in the heads of Blues fans who imagine their team to be better than it is.
Whatever. After two straight wins against the Wings this season (2-1 and 3-2 wins at home) and a big time blowout embarrassment on Detroit's home ice last march in which the Blues scored a ten-spot, there might be a bit of a desire for Detroit to change directions here against the Blues. They're in a weird position - beneath St. Louis in the standings - and really need for their on-again/off-again play to stop if they're hoping to leapfrog the hotter than heck Blues and Blackhawks any time soon. If you think that the Wings aren't approaching this game in a mindset usually reserved for a rival team, you're nuts.
The Blues, however, are still rolling right on. They've lost a total of three games in regulation under coach Ken Hitchcock and are sitting pretty in the 4th overall spot in the Western Conference. They're playing the best hockey they have since the blackout, and as opposed to the playoff run in 2009, this doesn't look to be a happy fluke.
The Blues have their work cut out them tonight. The Wings have won ten in a row at home, and have shellacked opponents 51-15 during that span. The Joe's always a tough place to play, but when the Wings are hot and the octopi are flying, it's one of the hardest in the league. Goaltender Brian Elliott, who has started the two games played against Detroit, needs to keep a clear head and not let the Wings bowl him over - literally or figuratively - to break his cool. It might be tougher than usual to keep the Wings under control with Vladimir Sobotka and T.J. Oshie out again, but they're short a formidable force too. Tomas Holmstrom left their game against the Nashville Predators early yesterday. His big presence in front of the net causes headaches for the opposition, and the Blues can certainly do without that distraction.
Detroit's just one point behind the Blues, and both teams are looking at tonight and Saturday's games as a chance to either solidify a lead or pull ahead. There's a good chance that the Blues can find themselves five points ahead of the Wings when all is said and done, and in a Conference as tight as the West is, some sort of space between the pack is 110% necessary.