Wings battle Blues for division lead
Fewer than 1,000 seats remain for this Central clash
Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 3:22 PM / Tickets
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
With fewer than 1,000 seats remaining for what will surely be a terrific game, tickets for this Central Division clash will be a premium. CLICK HERE for tickets!
And what’s not to get excited about?
While the Blues have scored the fewest power-play goals on the road and their penalty-kill is in the middle of the pack, they continue to flirt with the league’s best teams, corralling 60 points – just one behind the Western Conference-leading Red Wings, who have won 15 straight at home.
Since coach Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne in early November, the Blues have undergone a revitalization, instilling some toughness in a team that is 21-5-6 since the coaching move was made.
And like the Red Wings, the Blues also have a top-flight goaltender headed to his first All-Star game later this month.
Brian Elliott has enjoyed a phenomenal season, posting a 15-5-0 record and ranks second in the NHL with a 1.62 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage, and five shutouts, which ties his career-high. Meanwhile, Jimmy Howard continues to churn out one win after another for the Wings with his league-leading 27 wins and spectacular 1.98 goals-against average.
The Central Division championship will likely be a highly-contested battle down the stretch with four of the five clubs – including the Wings and Blues – currently among the top six teams in the Western Conference standings.
The Wings and Blues have already played four times this season with the home teams earning two wins each with three of the games determined by one-goal. The Wings have outscored the Blues, 9-7, with the strength of Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and Niklas Kronwall, who have garnered three points each in the season series. Drew Miller, Valtteri Filppula, Justin Abdelkader and Johan Franzen have collected two-points each in the four-games thus far.
“It’s been a battle, all four games have been back and forth,” said Howard, of the Blues. “Now we have to figure out a way to win one at their building, so we’ve won both here and we have to take it on the road.”
The Wings’ final road game of the regular-season will be at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center on April 4.
Hitchcock is an admitted Mike Babcock disciple. For years, the coaching friends have picked each other’s brains about schemes, strategies and philosophies, so obviously they have very similar coaching styles.
“I think we are in 95 percent agreement with how the game is played,” Hitchcock said about Babcock. “There’s one change defensively that we did than what they did, and then offensively it’s pretty close to the similar philosophy.”
Since his arrival, Hitchcock's teachings have clearly helped the Blues’ physical style.
“I think when things kind of ramp up in that area, that's kind of what we like,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told The Associated Press. “That's what kind of drives us and doesn't allow us to really sit back, and kind of like Hitch always says, let our skill get ahead of our work.”
These clubs are meeting for the fifth time since Hitchcock joined St. Louis. The Blues won 2-1 on Nov. 15 and 3-2 on Dec. 6. The Wings prevailed in the next two games, winning 3-2 on Dec. 27 and 3-0 four days later.
Blues forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Ian Cole each earned three-game suspensions earlier this season for illegal hits on Kronwall and Abdelkader, respectively. Neither Wings’ players were seriously injured but the two Blues were hurt in the wallet, having to write checks to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund, totally more than $67,000.
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Monday, January 23
WHERE: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit
TIME: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: NBCSP (HD), TSN2, FS Detroit
RADIO: 97.1 FM The Ticket
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