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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Red Wings, Friday February 11th

Wrapping up a rather successful and very eventful four-game homestand, the Bruins (31-16-7) will host their second straight Original Six franchise at TD Garden tonight, as they begin a home-and-home series with the Detroit Red Wings (32-16-6).

With Wednesday’s win, the B’s gave themselves some breathing room atop the Northeast Division, now enjoying a three-point lead over the Habs for the top spot, and just two points behind Tampa Bay for second place in the Eastern Conference.

The Red Wings are a team also leading their division, sitting five points ahead of Nashville in the Central Division. The Wings have struggled lately though, losers of three of their last four games, including two of those losses coming to the Predators themselves. Their offense has gone silent as of late, scoring a combined four goals over their last four games. They trail West-leading Vancouver by nine points in the conference standings.

Despite this being the 577th meeting all-time between these two teams, these days the B’s and Wings don’t get to face each other as often. Tonight will be the first time since Chris Osgood shut out the Bruins in a 2-0 Detroit win, back on November 3rd, 2009 in the Motor City. The last time the Red Wings came to Boston was a year earlier, in a November 2008 game that saw the B’s earn a 4-1 win.

With all that said, I think it’s time we get you acquainted with the Detroit Red Wings, so you can watch this game with your buddies and have some interesting info to impress them with. Jot these pre-game notes down before they drop the puck tonight…

  • As for tonight’s game, the two healthy scratches for Boston will remain the same, with defenseman Mark Stuart and rookie Tyler Seguin preparing to watch the action from the Garden’s ninth floor.
  • Ok, Red Wings time. Odds are, tonight we won’t be seeing anything like what we saw in Wednesday night’s game against Montreal. The Red Wings rank only behind the Florida Panthers as the league’s least penalized team, averaging just 8.8 PIMs per game (Florida is at 8.2). In contrast, the B’s average nearly double that, at 15.3 PIMs per game, good for 4th-most.
  • Detroit has been the winningest NHL franchise over the last decade. This season, the Wings, with their 70 points through 54 games, are on pace for 106 points by season’s end. That would add to a record they already own, as it would mark their 11th straight season with 100 or more points.
  • The Wings rank third in the league in both goals per game (3.24) and in shots per game (33.3). Boston is also in the top five in each of these categories, ranking fifth in scoring, at 3.11 goals per game, and first in shots per game, at 33.9. Don’t bet on another 8-6 game or anything, but offense could be fully on display again tonight at the Garden.
  • Detroit is a team loaded with veterans, and a handful of their old men are banged up and out of action with pretty big injuries. Goalie Chris Osgood has missed the last 10 games with a groin injury, center Mike Modano has been out most of the year with a wrist injury, former Bruin Brad Stuart is sidelined 6-8 weeks with a broken jaw, and forward Valtteri Filppula has a sprained ligament in his left knee and is doubtful for tonight.
  • Scoring for the Red Wings is led by Henrik Zetterberg (16G, 41A), whose 41 assists is good for fourth-most in the NHL. Following Zetterberg on the Detroit stat sheet, veteran defenseman and All Star captain Niklas Lidstrom (11G, 33A), and forwards Johan Franzen (26G, 15A) and Pavel Datsyuk (13G, 28A).
  • With Osgood out, the goaltending duties for Detroit have fallen almost fully to youngster Jimmy Howard (26-10-3, 2.89GAA). Howard and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas are tie with three other goalies at 26 wins, good for tops in the NHL. Backing up Howard now is former Bruin Joey MacDonald (1-3-1, 2.39GAA). MacDonald appeared in just seven games for the B’s back in the ’06-’07 season.
  • Lastly, dropping the ceremonial first puck before tonight’s game will be Lowell’s own “Irish” Micky Ward. Ward has returned to the national spotlight as his life is the subject of the Oscar-nominated Mark Wahlberg film, “The Fighter.” Ward, one of the greatest welterweight boxers ever, kicked off his professional career with 14 straight wins, and retired with an impressive 38-13 career record. His two bouts with Arturo Gatti back in 2002 and 2003 still rank as some of the greatest fights of all time.

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