Detroit Red Wings 2014-2015 season preview

Posted at 9:27 PM, Oct 07, 2014

The Detroit Red Wings 2014-2015 season kicks off Thursday night against the Boston Bruins. It's a rematch of the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup, where the Red Wings were eliminated in five games by the Bruins.

Last season, the Wings finished in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with a 39-28-15 record, barely clinching a playoff berth. Detroit’s lengthy playoff streak was in jeopardy as the team battled to the finish with the Washington Capitals.

There are many storylines fans can focus on as the 2014-2015 hockey season commences:

Injuries plague the 2013-2014 season

One of the main storylines from last season was the injuries plaguing the Red Wings. Only two players played in every single game last season: Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey.

The team's two best players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, each missed 37 games. Johan Franzen missed 28.

The defense suffered as well throughout the season due to injuries. Jonathan Ericsson missed 34 games, Brendan Smith missed 11 and Danny DeKeyser 17.

Another injury that took a toll was the groin strain that sidelined Stephen Weiss. The Wings signed Weiss in free agency before last season and he was expected to be a second-line center on the team. Weiss only played in 26 games last season, but says he feels healthy and ready to go this season.

Throughout a tumultuous year, it seemed the injury bug never stopped affecting Detroit.  As soon as one player came back, another went down.

This season hasn't even started and injuries are once again a main issue. Datsyuk separated his shoulder at the end of September and is out for at least four weeks. He should be back my mid-October.

The Wings will look to stay healthy this season as they compete within the very tough Atlantic Division.

Young stars shine, coming back this season

The many injuries provided an opportunity for the Red Wings young players to get valuable NHL experience. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco all had breakout seasons last year.

All four start this season on the Wings 23-man roster.

Last season, Nyquist stole the show after only playing 57 games because of a late call-up. In those games, he scored 28 goals and had 20 assists. He was second on the team with points.

Tatar was with the team for most of the season, but still put the puck in the net 19 times with 20 assists.

It’s expected that Tatar, Sheahan and Jurco will comprise the second line to start the year.

Highest scoring player not with the team...yet

Will we see Daniel Alfredsson again?

After signing with the Wings before last season, Alfredsson was the highest point-scorer on the team, tallying 49 points (31 assists and 18 goals).

Alfredsson took time off and weighed his decision on whether or not to retire when the 2014 season ended. A back injury kept him out of 14 games last season, and he didn't come to training camp after aggravating his back again.

Though Alfredsson is 41, he will still be a big part of the Wings' success if he comes back.

Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, or Petr Mrazek?

There's a famous saying in Detroit that the two favorite athletes are the Lions backup quarterback and the Red Wings backup goaltender. That holds true when it comes to Jimmy Howard.

The flu sidelined Howard in the final two playoff games against the Bruins, but people were calling for Gustavsson to start games throughout the season.

In 51 appearances, Howard went 21-19-11, allowing 133 goals on 1,482 shots, for a .910 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average.

Gustavsson played in 27 games, going 15-5-4, with a .907 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average.

Mrazek is another popular name among fans. He was sent down to Grand Rapids Tuesday as Howard and Gustavsson remain on the team. In just nine games, Mrazek had a .927 save percentage and a 1.74 goals against average.

Expect Howard to rebound a bit from last season, and come back to his 2012-2013 ways.

Games to look forward to

The opening game on Thursday against the Bruins is always a big game as it's an original-six matchup, but also because of what happened last season. The Wings were eliminated from the playoffs in five games.

On October 21, the Wings head to Montreal to face the Canadiens. Last season, Montreal finished in third place in the division, seven points ahead of the Wings. The early-season matchup will show the strengths and weaknesses of both teams.

Looking into November, the Chicago Blackhawks come to Joe Louis Arena on November 14. Since the teams play in different conferences, the single-game home-and-home series provides an entertaining twist to an original-six rivalry.

Also, on November 9, the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town. The Lightning finished in second place in the Atlantic Division, eight points ahead of the Wings.

The Blue Jackets and Wings battled for wild card spots toward the end of the season, and on November 18, the two teams meet again for the first time this season.

Washington barely missed out on a playoff spot to the Red Wings by only three points. The Wings head to Washington D.C. on October 29.

For the entire schedule, click here.