Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins - 3/20/14
Pittsburgh Penguins (45-19-4) at Detroit Red Wings (31-24-13)
NHL Hockey: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm (Joe Louis Arena)
The Line: Detroit Red Wings +114 / Pittsburgh Penguins -126 --- Over/Under: 5.5 See the Latest Odds
Currently sitting one point out of the final Wild Card berth in the Eastern Conference playoff race the Detroit Red Wings need points almost every night out. The Red Wings trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point for that final playoff berth but tying the Blue Jackets won't do Detroit any good. Right now the Red Wings have four less wins than the Blue Jackets so tying them won't be an option as we head down the stretch here. It's amazing that the Red Wings are even still in contention with the amount of injuries they've suffered through this season but you can bet that the Penguins and Boston Bruins don't have any desire to see this club in the first round of the playoffs. That's even more incentive for Pittsburgh on Thursday night to really try and push the Red Wings further down the standings. The Red Wings have lost five of their last eight games but a two goal third period helped elevate them over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. Gustav Nyquist made it a 2-0 game with his second goal of the game and 19th of the season just over two minutes into the final period. Toronto cut the lead to a goal but Daniel Alfredsson increased the lead to two with his 15th of the season with under three minutes to go. Jimmy Howard finished the night with 31 saves on 33 shots in the 3-2 victory. There's a lot of competition for these final playoff spots and with the way teams like Columbus and Philadelphia are playing right now there's no guarantee the Red Wings are going to be there in the end. It's going to take a huge effort on Thursday night as the Red Wings need to find a way to pick up points against teams like the Penguins if they really want to get themselves into this thing. Detroit will play the Blue Jackets one more time next week after a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Wild.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins it's all about trying to get mentally prepared for the playoffs. It was stunning to a lot of people that the Penguins didn't elect to go out and find a goaltender in the offseason but it probably made a lot of other teams in the Eastern Conference happy when general manager Ray Shero gave Marc-Andre Fleury a vote of confidence and said he was going to continue to be the guy in Pittsburgh. This weekend's disaster against the Philadelphia Flyers that saw the Penguins get swept by their desperate rival just proved how risky it will be for this club to throw Fleury out there in the post season. Not only that but there's no veteran netminder like Tomas Vokoun behind him this year that Dan Bylsma can put in there if Fleury struggles. It's either Fleury or a young kid with absolutely no experience in the playoffs. At this point nobody cares how many wins and points the Penguins finish with during the regular season. When you're a hockey club that dominates your division and is a lock for the playoffs by the time the new year rolls around, what happens in the playoffs is all that matters. A club with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on it on top of that means that much more is expected. There isn't much time left until this club will get a chance to exorcise their demons, but we won't learn anything abou them until we get there. Thursday night in Detroit they should be able to find a way to take advantage of a depleted Red Wings lineup, but even if they do that won't matter three weeks from now.
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