Sparked by Oshie's return, Blues host Red Wings
RED WINGS (28-12-6) at BLUES (22-17-6)
TV: FS-D (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Detroit 5-3-2; St. Louis 4-5-1
Season series --
It's the fourth of six meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. Detroit took the first two on home ice and St. Louis responded with a 4-3 triumph at home on Dec. 23. Patrik Berglund
scored twice and Jaroslav Halak
made 35 saves for the Blues. Danny Cleary started a four-goal third-period outburst with his second of the night in a 7-3 win on Nov. 17, and Nicklas Lidstrom recorded the first hat trick of his career in a 5-2 victory on Dec. 15.
Big story --
While the Red Wings continue to go toe-to-toe with the Vancouver Canucks for the top seed in the Western Conference, the Blues are simply holding out hope that a playoff berth is in their future. The return of TJ Oshie
to the St. Louis lineup could be just the boost coach Davis Payne needs at this stage in the season. Detroit enters the contest second in the conference with 62 points -- three behind the Canucks. The Blues are 10th in the conference with 50 points, four points behind eighth-seeded Chicago.
Red Wings --
The Red Wings took 18 of a possible 26 points in their first 13 games after Pavel Datsyuk started their run of injuries by breaking his right hand. But they are 1-2-1 in their last four games, including a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Johan Franzen's 20th goal got Detroit within 2-1 at 17:28 of the second, but it didn't take long before the Penguins were back in control. While injuries have hurt the Wings, so has repeatedly falling behind early in games -- they've trailed 2-0 in each of their last three.
Oshie provided just the emotional lift the team needed on Tuesday to snap a three-game home losing streak following a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, returning to the lineup a month ahead of schedule. Oshie, who was a minus-1 with two shots on net but was also the game's No. 1 star, got a loud ovation when he was announced as one of the starters for the first time since breaking his ankle on Nov. 10. The Blues were 9-1-2 before Oshie, a first-round draft pick in 2005, was injured, and he led the team in scoring with a goal and nine assists at the time of his injury.
"I felt great," Oshie said. "It took me a while to find my step out there, but everything was good. Probably halfway through the second, I started getting comfortable. I was feeling like myself again out there."
Who's hot --
Red Wings center Darren Helm has recorded four two-point games in his last nine matches and has 10 points in the last 10 games (2 goals, 8 assists). … St. Louis defenseman Erik Johnson
has a point in his last four games (2 goal, 2 assists), a season high.
Injury report --
For Detroit, defenseman Brad Stuart (jaw) and forwards Tomas Holmstrom (broken hand), Cleary (ankle), Datsyuk (hand/wrist) and Mike Modano (wrist) are out. … Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo
(facial cut) is day-to-day. Meanwhile, the Blues are without concussed forwards Andy McDonald
and David Perron
Stat pack --
St. Louis has sold out all 24 home games this season. … Detroit's Franzen has a team-leading 20 goals, including a goal in each of his last two games.
Puck drop --
Lidstrom was named a captain for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover on Tuesday. The future Hall of Fame defenseman and 12-time NHL All Star is excited about the new format, in which he and fellow captain Eric Staal of Carolina will take turns choosing sides from the remaining pool of All-Stars on Jan. 28. When asked on Tuesday who he might choose with his first pick, Lidstrom refused to tip his hand.