By: Casey Johnston (@CaseyR82)
Last Game for the Penguins: Saturday, a 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. The Penguins got on the board early, scoring three goals in the first 15 minutes. Pascal Dupuis got his fifth of the season just 40 seconds into the first period. Chris Conner scored just over seven minutes later to make it 2-0. Jayson Megna put the Penguins up 3-0 when he scored off of a rebound from a Simon Despre shot. Patrik Eiias and Danius Zubrus brought the Devils to within one in the second period. From there, it was a battle of goalies as Marc-Andre Fleury and Cory Schneider refused to concede an inch to either team. Fleury stopped 37 of 39 shots while Schneider stopped 20 of 23 shots.
Last Game for the Red Wings: Thursday, a 2-1 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kyle Quincey scored for the Red Wings at 15:04 of the first period. Nikita Kucherov finally answered for the Lightning at 19:16 of the second period. The shootout went six rounds before Martin St. Louis beat Jonas Gustavsson. Ben Bishop faced 29 shots for the Lightning while Gustavsson saw 27 for the Red Wings.
Last Time These Two Teams Met: December 13, 2011. The Red Wings defeated the Penguins 4-1. Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins with five seconds remaining in the first period. The Red Wings did not answer until 16 minutes into the second period when Pavel Datsyuk got a backhander past Marc-Andre Fleury. Johan Franzen put the Red Wings up five minutes into the third. Dan Cleary scored twice to seal the win. Fleury faced 24 shots while Jimmy Howard faced 26.
Last 10 Games for the Penguins: 7-2-1.
Last 10 Games for the Devils: 5-3-2.
Story of the Game: The Penguins are facing the Detroit Red Wings for the first time as a conference opponent. This is the first of four meetings between the two teams, and their first meeting since the 2011-12 season. After NHL realignment was announced, I was disappointed that the Red Wings were placed in the new Atlantic Division rather than the Metropolitan Division with the Penguins. In 2008 and 2009 the two teams accomplished an extremely difficult thing in today’s NHL – they built a legitimate rivalry despite playing in separate conferences. The best rivalries are built in the playoffs. The Penguins and the Red Wings met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with each getting the honor of skating around with Lord Stanley’s Cup raised over their heads. The rivalry has declined in recent years without the teams making a third Finals appearance. The NHL had the chance to reignite it by putting the Red Wings in the Metropolitan Division, but we will have to settle for the Penguins playing Detroit four times a season as conference opponents. Rivalries can develop that way too.
Penguins All-Time Record Against the Red Wings: 61-61-16-1.
Player to Watch on the Penguins: Simon Despres has three assists in his last four games.
Player to Watch on the Red Wings: Johan Franzen has 12 points (4g-8a) in his last nine games.