Though they may not deserve it, the Red Wings open their 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs in Tampa tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
These two teams met in the opening round last year, with Tampa Bay rallying from down 3-2 in the series to win in seven games, but there are some differences this year.
For the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard has reclaimed the starting role in goal. Forward Brad Richards – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs with the Lightning during their Stanley Cup run in 2004 – joined Detroit in the offseason. Mike Green is in on the blueline with Marek Zidlicky having moved on to the New York Islanders. Landon Ferraro is now in Boston. Rookies Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou will be making their playoff debuts.
For the Lightning, a powerhouse team has been crippled by injuries. Forward Steven Stamkos is likely to miss the entirety of the playoffs with blood clots. Anton Stralman is out on the blue line. Tyler Johnson – who the Red Wings couldn’t contain last year – is questionable for Game One. Victor Hedman is returning from injury.
Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are a perfect split 17-17 all-time in Game One of the playoffs coming off a loss in their last game of the regular season.
Game time is 7:00 on FSD and NBCSN.