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Depleted Penguins, Red Wings Face Off In Key Matchup

Versus probably didn't have this in mind when they scheduled the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings for their national game tonight.

Four of the top players in the league won't be participating tonight when the Penguins and Red Wings face off at Joe Louis Arena in what is actually a key game for both squads. Detroit is trying to hold onto an eight point advantage over Chicago in the Central Division and a two-point cushion on San Jose for the second seed in the West, while Pittsburgh is trying to catch Philadelphia for the top seed in the Eastern conference. 

The Red Wings announced that three of their top forwards won't be available for tonight's game. Pavel Datsyuk missed Saturday's contest in Nashville after suffering an injury the night before and won't play again tonight. Joining him will be Johan Franzen and Jiri Hudler, who also missed the game in Nashville. Detroit will carry 11 forwards and seven defensemen because they do not have the cap space to call up a player from the AHL.

Meanwhile, the Penguins aren't doing much better on the injury front. Sidney Crosby is back on the ice for Pittsburgh as he recovers from a concussion, but he didn't make the trip and will remain out of the Pittsburgh lineup. Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5 and Monday will be the 32nd game he's missed. Pittsburgh is also missing Evgeni Malkin, who's out for the rest of the season after blowing out both his ACL and MCL ligaments. 

Pittsburgh may also be without controversial winger Matt Cooke. Cooke is expected to be handed a lengthy suspension for blatantly elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Sunday, possibly for the remainder of the season. 

Players to watch

Todd Bertuzzi, Red Wings—With key players out of the lineup, Bertuzzi is the one that most people will look for to pick up the slack.  It would help if he obliged; Bertuzzi hasn't scored since Feb. 18 and has just one assist in March.

Jordan Staal, Penguins—Crosby still leads the Penguins in scoring by 20 points despite missing half the season, but the Penguins have still found a way to keep their heads above water. Staal is on a three-game goal scoring streak and has potted four of his 10 goals this season in March.