Monday, December 22, 2003

GameDay: vs. St. Louis (20-6-3-1), 7:30 EST

Tonight is the fourth of six games between these two Central Division rivals. Both teams are fighting for first place in the Division and Conference and have been neck and neck all season, especially so recently. The season series is split 1-1-1, with the Blues winning 6-5 in the first game, the Wings winning 2-1 in the second and a 4-4 tie in the third. The Wings are riding a seven game home winning streak and are coming off a shutout loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The Wings are 13-3-0-0 at the Joe this year and have not lost their since the Caps embarrassed them 4-1 on November 24. That loss launched them into a great month of December where they've gone 7-2-1-1 and 10-2-1-1 since the 24th. The Wings have dominated the Blues at home over the past 23 games, going 14-5-4-1. Two of the Blues wins came during the last week of the 2001-2002 season and meant absolutely nothing in the standings. The Blues had a season high six game winning streak ended on Saturday when they tied Phoenix 1-1. They went 6-0-3 after losing to the Wings 2-1 on November 29. They are just two points behind the Wings for the lead in the Central Division and the Western Conference and have played six fewer games than Detroit. Curtis Joseph should make the start again tonight for the Wings with Dominik Hasek out still with a groin injury and Manny Legace taking up his backup spot again. No injured Wings are scheduled for comebacks tonight. This game has a very high level of importance. These two teams do not play again until February 20th and after that, not until April 1st. With six games in hand, the Blues have a good chance of pulling ahead of the Wings, though those games are all on the road. Although St. Louis does not play the same number of games as the Wings until early March, a Detroit win tonight would make it a little more difficult for the Blues to gain the lead. I'm expecting the Blues to hit a mid- to late-season slump anyway and since the Wings seem to have already gotten their seasonal slump out of the way, I'm not too terribly worried about that the Blues will win the Division. St. Louis sees winning the season series with the Wings as a priority required to be met if they want to win the division. That's probably true but the Blues have not won a season series against the Wings since 97-98. The Wings have obviously gotten inside the Blues head and the Wings have capitalized on it in the past. Hopefully they'll do the same tonight because they pretty much have to and I'm sure they know it. I expect a good, close game and hopefully one that is not bogged down by clutch-and-grab, the trap and constant penalties. Freep | News | ESPN


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