GameDay: @ Minnesota (20-12-2, 42 Pts) 8:00 ET

Update (4:30 PM): As much improvement as we’ve seen with the Wings’ online presence, it’s obvious that they still have quite a way to go. Witness the Wild’s official preview of the game tonight and compare it to the Wings’ AP wire preview. Notice a difference? Which would did you find more informative? As impressed as I was with the Oilers’ official preview last week, I think Minnesota’s is even better.

Why the Wings rely strictly on the AP content for their previews when they could have someone like the Wild’s “Web Content” writer, Glen Andresen, doing something other than cookie-cutter crap is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the AP reports, but I go to for them. I’d like to be able to go to the Wings’ official site and get more.

They can’t even use the argument that they don’t need to make a greater effort at putting a more personal face on GameDay because they are in such a good hockey market. Minnesota and Edmonton are both great hockey markets and their previews beat the Wings’ by a country mile. – Matt

Update (2:53 PM): I forgot to mention that Dominik Hasek is the starter for Detroit, at least according to the Bruce MacLeod post linked to below. – Matt

Update (2:47 PM): Bad news: Bruce MacLeod reports that Henrik Zetterberg is the previously-unnamed injured Red Wing and will not be in the lineup tonight due to back spasms. Hank told the media,

“I’m not too worried. There’s been a lot of games played. I feel a little bad today. Hopefully, I get three days off, I’ll feel a little better after Christmas. Of course I want to play tonight, but if you think, be a little smart, you get a few days off and hopefully it won’t get worse. … Today was the first time it was bad enough to not go out there. We decided not to play. It’s been pretty good lately. Overall for the year, it’s been good and bad days, but overall it’s been good.”

Hank’s made a strong case for being the Wings’ MVP this season, so this is obviously a big loss. Hopefully it’s just for tonight.

Mark Hartigan has been called up to fill in the 12th forward spot. Valtteri Filppula will move up to the top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary to start the game. It looks like Johan Franzen will take Fil’s place on the second line.

Good news: The MRI on Tomas Holmstrom’s knee showed that there is no tear, though there is a bone bruise. According to Ansar Khan, Mike Babcock’s thinking is that it’s not a long-term injury. Still, they don’t know when he’ll be able to return to the lineup, as Babcock told Helene St. James:

“It’s not a big deal. Now, does that big deal mean one game, two games, three? I don’t know, but big-picture wise, it’s fantastic.”

You can expect a dip in the Wings’ power play production over the next game or two, especially if Hank can’t make it back immediately.  – Matt

Update (1:21 PM): Our favorite Detroit-bashing Minneapolis-St. Paul hockey writer, Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, has “a hunch” that Petteri Nummelin will return to the lineup tonight in favor of Matt Foy.

He also says it’s likely Josh Harding will start instead of Niklas Backstrom. Harding was in net when the Wings beat the Wild on the 7th. – Matt

Update (1:15 PM): The Pioneer Press’ Brian Murphy has a piece about the Minneapolis-St. Paul-as-Hockeytown flap that is more sober than most coming out of the State of Hockey. I love this quote from John Hahn, the Wings’ Senior Director of Communications:

“Hockeytown isn’t just the city of Detroit. It’s a feeling, an atmosphere, an attitude about hockey and passion about the Red Wings that is present everywhere we go.”

That’s exactly what I’ve been saying.

This quote by St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman could very well have been said by Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick:

“When you take the success of the franchise, and all the other hockey stuff that’s going on here, this clearly is ‘Hockeytown.'”

Given that the Wings’ success far outweighs the Wild’s and that the Metro Detroit area has as much, if not more, of “all that other hockey stuff” happening, why not concede the point? Detroit is Hockeytown. Minnesota is The State of Hockey. It’s pretty simple. – Matt

Update (12:40 PM): IwoCPO suggests that the unnamed injured Red Wing is Mikael Samuelsson. That’s as good a guess as any. My guess? I wouldn’t be too surprised if it were Pavel Datsyuk. It’d be hard to believe he came out of that game without some kind of injury after all the special attention he received. – Matt

Tonight is the second of four games between these two teams this season. The Wings won the first meeting, 5-0 on December 7th on the back of Dominik Hasek’s shutout and Henrik Zetterberg’s hat trick. The remaining two games will be played January 10th and February 5th.

The Wild are 5-1-0 since losing to the Wings on the 7th, with their only loss during that stretch coming on the 11th in San Jose. Since that loss, they have won four straight, including games against Anaheim, LA, Nashville, and New York (Rangers). The win over New York on Thursday was remarkable in that Marian Gaborik became the first player in nearly 11 years to score five goals in a game. Tonight is the last of a three-game homestand for the Wild.

Gaborik leads the Wild in goals and overall points with 18 and 33. He and Brian Rolston are the only Minnesota players who have scored 10 or more goals this season.

It looks like Minnesota will be without Todd Fedoruk (shoulder), Petteri Nummelin (head), Derek Boogaard (back), and Mikko Koivu (fibula).

Josh Harding has started the last four games for the Wild, but may sit tonight in favor of Niklas Backstrom.

For the Wild perspective, see The State of Hockey News, Wild Puck Banter, Casual Hockey, Puck Wild, In the State of Hockey, and Land of Lakes and Hockey. Theresa Ferries of The State of Hockey News has her preview posted already.

The Wings are 5-1-1 since their win over the Wild earlier this month. They are coming off their first regulation loss since Thanksgiving, a 3-2 decision in St. Louis on Thursday. The game came the night after a 6-2 win over LA and was the first of a five-game road trip.

Valtteri Filppula has scored five goals in his last seven, including two on penalty shots and Henrik Zetterberg has scored seven in his last nine. Mikael Samuelsson, who had been the coldest of the Wings’ offensive forwards, broke a 13-game goalless streak with one Thursday night.

The Wings will be without Kirk Maltby (back) and Tomas Holmstrom (knee). It is also possible that they may be without another forward, as the media was told an unnamed player came out of St. Louis banged up. If that player is unable to go, Mark Hartigan should get the call-up. In any case, Aaron Downey will return to the lineup after sitting out the last two. Chris Chelios also will return to the lineup after having Thursday night off. Derek Meech will sit as a result.

If the Wings stick to their rotation policy, Dominik Hasek should be the starter tonight.

For more of the Wings’ perspective, see  Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.

The Wild will be looking to exact revenge for the embarrassment they suffered in their last meeting with the Wings. They’ll be looking to protect their 7-0 record on Saturdays and to attempt to justify being named the new “Hockeytown USA” as though one win over the team from the real Hockeytown means the title gets transferred.

So, you can expect that they’ll be playing what Jacque Lemaire erroneously calls “hockey” to the best of their ability. We can only hope the Wings can beat through the wall of bodies and make things more entertaining than watching um, well, -  than watching a team trap. I would love to see the Wild put in their place, as they were on the 7th.