PITTSBURGH. Pennsylvania -- A team that was only able to muster 5 wins over a 17 game span to begin the new-year now once again find themselves back on top of the Western Conference. Since their disastrous start to 2003, the Detroit Red Wings have gone 15-1-0-1 en route to becoming the National Hockey League's elite franchise once again. Tuesday night Detroit will look to expand upon the gap between themselves and the rest of the West when they touchdown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to take on Mario Lemieux and the Penguins.
In many ways this game will serve as a break for the Red Wings, who are coming off of big wins over Colorado and the eastern leading Ottawa Senators. Look for Steve Yzerman to be back in the line-up after sitting out Sunday's game against the Sen's. The Red Wings are 8-0 when their captain has laced up his skates. Much of the credit for the win over the Senator's has been given to Curtis Joseph. Cujo turned away 41 shots to keep Detroit's winning ways intact. The line of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Brett Hull have been one of the main sources of Detroit's recent surge in offensive production by collectively notching 71 points over the past 17 games. They will certainly be looking to capitalize on the recent woes of the Pittsburgh Penguins
The stripped down Penguins have been playing uninspired hockey as of late. Losing power forwards Jan Hrdina and Alexie Kovalev have caused the Penguin's general manager to admit that they just can't compete right now in the NHL. Playing a financially stable red-hot team like the Detroit was probably not the first thing that they wanted to deal with. The sixty-point Penguins are currently buried under four other teams in the Atlantic Division. One of the only bright spots for the franchise remains player and owner Mario Lemieux. Number sixty-six leads the team with 28 goals and 59 assists. The Penguins fell to the Florida Panthers 4-2 in their last effort.
Earlier in the season, the Red Wings, led by a Sergei Federov hat trick and a two goal performance by Luc Robitaille, squashed the Pen's 7-3.
-Player To Watch-
Pittsburgh-#66 Mario Lemieux (28 goals, 59 assists). Who else? Always a pleasure to watch skate.
Detroit- #17 Brett Hull (33 goals, 35 assists). A big reason why Detroit was able to hold off the Senators on Sunday. Hull will be looking to add to his season total against the struggling Pen's.
-Out or in Doubt-
Pittsburgh- D Joel Bouchard (Broken Jaw/Out), D Josef Melichar (Shoulder/Out), D Michal Rozsival (Shoulder/Questionable), C Milan Kraft (Groin/Out)
-Between da Pipes-
Pittsburgh- #31 Sebastien Caron (5-12-1, 2.77 GAA, .912 SV%, 2 SO)
Detroit- #31 Curtis Joseph (30-17-6, 2.58 GAA, .910 SV%, 3 SO)
-Most Points This Season vs. Opposition-
Pittsburgh- #66 Mario Lemieux with 2 points (2 assists) vs. Detroit
Detroit- #23 Mathieu Schneider with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) vs. Pittsburgh
The Game will be televised locally on Fox Detroit at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.