There’s no question that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings have had to suffer the most due to injuries this season. The statistics prove it. The top two teams in the NHL in terms of total man games lost goes to the Penguins and Red Wings. But while the Penguins have had some of their top players returning to the lineup — albeit still playing without the likes of Paul Martin, Kris Letang and Beau Bennett — the Red Wings are definitely at a disadvantage just by looking at who will not be able to lace up the skates Thursday night.
The Red Wings’ top two offensive threats – Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk – both will not be in the lineup to take on the Penguins.
The Penguins have all but sealed up the Metropolitan division, but they have their eye on the Boston Bruins, who currently have a five-point lead for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Wings, on the other hand, are still in the playoff hunt despite all their injuries. Detroit has turned into a grinding team, coming off a hard fought victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, and have won their last three games at home.
Now that Chris Kunitz and James Neal have returned to the lineup for the Penguins, however, there’s no excuse for a lack of offensive production against a battered opponent. Even Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock knows things are going to be tough.
“We know they’re going to have the puck more than we are tonight,” Babcock said. “We have to make the most of it when we have it.”
The Penguins can’t afford to lose games against opponents like the Red Wings, who are at a strict disadvantage due to injuries, and to be frank, are going to have a far less talented lineup on the ice Thursday night. If the Penguins want to make a serious run at catching the Bruins for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, tonight would be a good night to start patching some wins together.