RANGERS (2-6-0) at RED WINGS (6-4-1)
TV: NHLN-US, MSG, FS-D
Last 10: Detroit 5-4-1
Season series: For the first time in almost 40 years, the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers will face off as conference rivals. This will be the first of three meetings, with the following two taking place in New York on Jan. 16 and March 9.
Big story: The Red Wings have enjoyed a strong start in their first season back in the Eastern Conference. But one could hardly blame the Rangers for feeling as if they reside in the Western Conference. This is the final game of a nine-game road trip to start New York's season. And based on their record so far, they'd like nothing more than a big win in Detroit before returning to the newly-renovated Madison Square Garden.
Rangers: New York has shown occasional flashes of strong play, most notably in a 2-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 16. But its lengthy trip has been a difficult one as MSG completes its transformation.
The gains the Rangers made in their win in Washington were undermined by a 4-0 loss last Saturday to their longtime rival, the New Jersey Devils. New York hoped to rebound Thursday night against another old rival, the Philadelphia Flyers.
That evening at Wells Fargo Center didn't get off to a promising start as Matt Read opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal midway through the opening period. Brad Richards evened things late in the period with his team-leading fifth goal of the season. The remainder of the game was a grudge match, as goaltender Cam Talbot made some important saves in his NHL debut. But Braydon Coburn's slap shot 3:33 into the third eluded Talbot and gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish. The Rangers appeared to tie the game shortly after Coburn's goal, but a video review showed that J.T. Miller used a distinct kicking motion to beat Flyers goaltender Steve Mason.
"Guys are doing a lot of the right things," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We used our speed. We spent a lot of time in Philadelphia's end. We tried to get pucks through, bodies in front. But give them credit; they did a good job defending and their goalie made a couple of nice saves."
Red Wings: Detroit will have a different look as it tries to end a three-game losing streak. After watching his team score three goals in the three games, including a 6-1 home loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday, coach Mike Babcock broke up the pairing of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in hopes of generating more offense against the Rangers. Datsyuk will play on a line with Daniel Alfredsson and Todd Bertuzzi, Zetterberg will center a line with Johan Franzen and Tomas Tatar.
“It’s not going. I told them and you guys I wasn’t going to split them up and 11 games in I’m splitting them up,” Babcock told the media. “It wasn’t my plan and not necessarily what I wanted to do, but we need to.”
Datsyuk and Zetterberg have accounted for 11 of-Detroit's 25 goals. The hope is that splitting the two will generate more balanced scoring and keep opponents from focusing on stopping one line.
"I think Babs was pretty up front about it, we will be playing together until he needs to switch it up and now it’s time,” Zetterberg told the media after practice. “I’m pretty sure we’ll play together here at some point in time, but when we’ve been losing games like we have, haven’t been scoring much, we have to try something different.’’
Who's hot: Richards has five points in his last four games and leads the Rangers with eight points. … Bertuzzi has two goals in his past three games and Henrik Zetterberg has nine points in his past seven games.
Injury report: Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist could return to the Rangers after missing Thursday's contest with an undisclosed injury. Carl Hagelin (shoulder), Ryan Callahan (broken thumb) and Rick Nash (head) are all out. … Forwards Patrick Eaves (knee) and Darren Helm (back) remain out while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson will miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury.
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