The Lightning are heading into the Motor City with a two games to none lead over the Detroit Red Wings. Both of the first two games in Tampa have been physical affairs culminating in a rather ugly brawl at the end of Game 2 that saw a combined 93 penalty minutes given out in the last minute of the game including 6 Misconducts and a Game Misconduct.
It was easy to see that something was coming at the end of the game as the Lightning were already up by 3 goals after having added an empty net goal with goaltender Jimmy Howard pulled for an extra attacker. The brawl was started by former Bolt Brad Richards slashing and cross checking Andrej Sustr after the whistle. Both lines came together and fights ensued with Nikita Nesterov eventually squaring off with Richards.
The most egregious, and frankly embarrassing, behavior on the ice however came from Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader. With Mike Blunden face down on the ice, Abdelkader broke the Code of Honor that binds this brotherhood of players together. He raised his fist up and behind him and rained down no less than 6 punches to the back of Blunden’s head. Blunden’s visor came down on his face and bloodied him resulting in 9 stitches. Detroit should be embarrassed by this behavior and it’s a shame that the Department of "Player Safety" has thus far silently approved of Abdelkader’s actions in Game 2.
Abdelkader was not made available to the media after the game but spoke to the media the following day back in Detroit after an optional practice. He stated to the media that he did not believe there would be any repercussions or carry over into game 3 from his actions. Lightning players however had a different view of his dirty play. Abdelkader’s comments also follow his statements before game 2 to the media that he views himself as a clean player. As Joe Smith noted, it’s safe to say that Mike Blunden does not concur with his assertions. I fully expect something will happen in game 3.
Going into Game 3, appears that there will be a few changes to the line up for both teams. As reported yesterday, J.T. Brown is out indefinitely with an upper body injury after blocking a shot in the first period of game 2. It appears that Erik Condra will draw into the line up with Vladislav Namestnikov moving from the fourth line to the third line with Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan.
On the Red Wings side of things, the most significant change is Petr Mrazek will be replacing Jimmy Howard in net. Brendan Smith will also be replacing Alexei Marchenko on the blue line. In addition, Detroit is mixing up their lines splitting up Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk and trying to find an answer to the Tyler Johnson line that has so far been unstoppable with a combined 15 points and 7 of the Lightning's 8 goals in the first two games.
I will not be surprised to see this game degenerate quickly into another physical affair especially if the Lightning get up early on the Red Wings. The keys of the game for the Lightning will be to take advantage of Detroit's undisciplined play and make them pay on the power play, keep their dangerous scorers to the perimeter as they've done the first two games, and find some offense from the other three lines and the blueline. For Detroit, it will be to play smart, disciplined hockey, maintain their defensive assignments in their own zone, and find a way to slow down the Johnson line.