January 14, 2017 @ 7:00 PM - Joe Louis Arena
TV: NHL Network, Root Sports Pittsburgh
After dropping back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators, the Penguins will look to get back on track when they travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings. After an extended bye week to kick off the year, the schedule sets up nicely for the Pens to get into a rhythm, as they'll be playing every other night for seven games until the All Star Break. It certainly helps that they get a chance to rebound against one of the worst teams in the league.
The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons, but unless they get an absolute miracle in the second half of the year they're going to be in an unfamiliar position - battling to win the NHL Draft lottery. The enter tonight's game with an Eastern Conference-worst 40 points, with only the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche having fewer points in the West.
While the core group of the 2008 Stanley Cup championship team has mostly retired, Henrik Zetterberg remains in Detroit and remains the team's leading scorer, though that says more about the strength of his teammates than it does his play. While the former 7th round draft pick was a greater than point per game scorer during his peak years, Father Time has started to catch up to the 36-year-old, and his 0.65 pts/gm average over the past two years rivals only his first two seasons (0.62 pts/gm) for the lowest scoring stretch of his career.
One of the bigger issues plaguing the Red Wings has been that once their farm system dried up, they weren't very successful in supplementing their team with free agent talent. Thomas Vanek is on his 5th team since 2013, but the 5th overall pick is having a bounce back season in Detroit. His 27 points in 31 games are good for second on the team in scoring, while his 0.87 point per game average is easily best on the team. While he's likely never to break the 40 goal mark again, as he did twice earlier in his career, Vanek has still been a capable scorer, with his current scoring rate good for 26 goals prorated over a full 82 game season.
- The Penguins' back-to-back losses were the first time they've dropped consecutive games in 90 games played. They'll try to avoid losing three straight for the first time since December 2015, when Mike Johnston lost his last game with the team and Mike Sullivan dropped the first four he coached.
- Tonight marks the last time the Penguins will play at Joe Louis Arena, as the Red Wings are scheduled to move into their new building in time for the 2017-18 season. They've had some good memories there, including winning the franchise's 3rd Stanley Cup after beating Detroit in 7 games in 2009.