(Sports Network) - The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins will meet tonight for the first time this season, but both teams will be missing key pieces when the clubs clash at CONSOL Energy Center.
Detroit has been bitten hard by the injury bug lately and most recently lost goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Tomas Holmstrom in Friday's loss to Columbus. Howard is day-to-day with a bruised right knee, but is expected to sit out tonight. Holmstrom, meanwhile, will be sidelined for at least a month with his broken hand.
The Red Wings also currently have forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano and Dan Cleary on injured reserve and defenseman Brad Stuart (broken jaw) and goaltender Chris Osgood (sports hernia) are expected to miss the next 6-to-8 weeks.
The Penguins, meanwhile, will once again be without captain Sidney Crosby, who is still leading the NHL with 66 points despite sitting out the last five games with a concussion. Crosby has not yet been cleared to practice and is sidelined indefinitely.
Tonight marks the third meeting between the Pens and Red Wings since Pittsburgh won Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals in Detroit. That series marked the second straight championship battle between the clubs, as the Wings downed Pittsburgh in six games to claim the Cup in 2008.
The clubs split a pair of encounters during the 2009-10 campaign, with each team winning a game on home ice. Detroit has won four of six and seven of the last 10 regular-season meetings and tonight will mark the Red Wings' first- ever game at Pittsburgh's new arena, which opened earlier this season.
The Red Wings are leading the Central Division with 62 points and have a 4-1-1 record over their last six games. Detroit split this past weekend's home-and- home series against the Blue Jackets, dropping Friday's game in Columbus before posting a wild overtime win in Saturday's home portion.
Johan Franzen played the hero on Saturday, as his goal just 45 seconds into overtime gave Detroit a 6-5 win over Columbus. Franzen took a Henrik Zetterberg pass into the right circle and sent a rising slapper that went over Steve Mason's left shoulder for the win.
Drew Miller scored a goal and tallied two assists as the Red Wings snapped a two-game losing streak, including a 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Friday. Kris Draper and Jonathan Ericsson each posted a goal and a helper, while Brian Rafalski and Valtteri Filppula each lit the lamp in the win.
"We won the game and that's all that matters," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock, who watched his team blow a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes. "Joey (MacDonald) came up to back up and then the next thing you know he's starting and he did a good job to help us get the win."
MacDonald filled in for Howard and turned away 25 shots in the win. MacDonald is expected to start again tonight, but Howard could be ready to start Thursday's game in St. Louis. Thomas McCollum, a 21-year-old prospect, will serve as MacDonald's back up again.
Detroit is 14-6-2 as the road team this season and will try to avoid a third straight loss as the guest tonight.
Pittsburgh lost its first three games without Crosby in the lineup, but the Pens have won consecutive tilts since. The Penguins posted a 5-2 victory in Montreal last Wednesday and then recorded a 3-2 decision Saturday afternoon in Boston.
Jordan Staal posted the game-winning score early in the third period as Pittsburgh edged Boston at TD Garden. Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also tallied for the Penguins, who are three points behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings.
Marc-Andre Fleury earned his 20th win of the season by stopping a season-high 44 shots.
"I like the fact that we refocused. They've come back against us before," Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said of his club, which had surrendered four goals in the final 3 1/2 minutes in a loss to Boston last Monday. "To refocus, come out and get the lead in the third, there were some scrambles at times, but we held the fort and got the win. Two big points for us."
The Penguins have lost three of their last four home games, a stretch that began with Pittsburgh's loss to Washington in this year's Winter Classic at Heinz Field. They have a 14-9-1 record as the host this season.