This rivalry dates back to the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals game when Pittsburgh captain, Sidney Crosby snubbed Detroit captain, Nicklas Lidstrom in the handshake line after the Penguins had defeated the Wings to win the Stanley Cup in game seven at Joe Louis Arena. Tonight's game however, has more behind it than a handshake snub, tonight's game is more than likely a preview of the first round action between these two teams; that is, if Detroit can maintain their current position in the standings.
Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are coming into Pittsburgh with the hopes of keeping their current playoff streak appearance alive. They are currently sitting at 6-3-1 in their last ten giving them sole position of the first wild card spot (seventh spot) in the Eastern Conference.
Despite all of the injuries, the Wings have been able to gain a foothold in the playoff race and will ultimately pull through and add onto their 22 consecutive playoff appearance streak. Not to mention, the Wings have been playing some pretty great hockey lately. The younger guys such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan, have been put to the test and they have done extremely well. These guys have had some playoff experience before, especially after winning the Calder Cup last season for the Wings' American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. They are used to playing fast paced, high caliber hockey, and the Wings will be looking to them to aid the team in making their twenty-third consecutive playoff appearance.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have been on a "win one, lose one" sort of streak; they currently sit at a 5-5-0 record in their last ten games. However, the Penguins aren't too worried since they've already clinched the second place spot in the Eastern Conference.
They've also been sitting some of the crucial players such as Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby, and Brooks Orpik, as to ensure their readiness come April 16. Fortunately for the Pens, star defenseman, Kris Letang, is returning to the game after missing 10 weeks due to a stroke he suffered back in January. The Penguins will be looking to utilize Letang's defensive-offensive play type tonight to get him fit and back into the action for the playoffs. It is possible that the Penguins will also be utilizing some of the younger guys such as Beau Bennett and Jayson Megna in tonight's matchup in order to "protect" some of the key players. They are coming into this game knowing that the Wings will do whatever it takes to win whether it comes from hard hits or even a fight.
As you're aware, the Wings have been playing through some detrimental injuries. Tonight isn't any different, they are still without the usual, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Stephen Weiss, and Daniel Cleary. Pittsburgh will be without, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik, Olli Maatta, Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale, Marcel Goc, Chris Conner, and Tomas Vokoun. It's important to note that most of the injured Pittsburgh players are able to return to play, however as I mentioned earlier, they want to keep them rested and out until playoffs.
This game will be a close one, when looking at Pittsburgh's home record (27-9-2) and Detroit's away record (20-15-4) its pretty clear who would win this game, however, depending on who the Penguins decide to mark as a healthy scratch could determine the outcome of the game. With this being said, the Wings get the win.