DETROIT – Expect Sunday to be a grind when the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks in a special Easter matinee at Joe Louis Arena.
But that’s nothing new. It’s a grind every time the Red Wings and Blackhawks meet.
The Central Division foes, who have been bitter rivals for the past 87 years, have played nine consecutive one-goal games, including two earlier contests this season. Both times the Blackhawks managed to eek out 2-1 overtime wins on Jan. 27 at Chicago and March 2 at Joe Louis Arena.
The Blackhawks, who opened the season with points in a NHL record 23 consecutive games, have cooled off lately. Meanwhile, the Red Wings are enjoying a resurgence of sorts, especially on the power play. Detroit has scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games with six of those games coming on the road.
It’s a far cry from where the Red Wings’ special team unit began the season, going 0-for-36 on the power play over the first 10 games of the season. Since then, Detroit’s power play is 7-for-22 over the last six road games.
However, Sunday against the Blackhawks, as is always the case for the Red Wings, puck-possession will be key, though Chicago is tough to beat through the neutral zone. The Blackhawks lead the league with an astonishing 324 takeaways. The Carolina Hurricanes are a distant second at 289.
Blackhawks are 11-1-1 this season when leading after the first period. And since backup Ray Emery has started two straight games – he was between the pipes Friday at the United Center against Anaheim – it’s more than probable that Corey Crawford will get the start against the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard.
PLAYER TO WATCH
G COREY CRAWFORD – In each of his last four starts against the Red Wings, Crawford has come away victorious, while holding Detroit to a single goal in three of those games. While the Montreal native has never shut out the Red Wings in 13 career starts, he always seems to play his best against them. Against the Red Wings, Crawford has post a 9-2-2 record with a 1.88 goals-against average, which are his personal bests versus any Western Conference opponent. … This season, he has appeared in 20 games, posting a 13-4-3 record with two shutouts, a 2.02 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He shares eighth in the league in wins, is fourth in GAA and seventh in save percentage. He’s also tied for sixth in the league in shutouts. … Outside of Columbus’s Nationwide Arena, Crawford seems to like Joe Louis Arena, where he is 5-1-1 with a 1.80 GAA and a career-best .949 save percentage.
Season Series: 0-0-2
2011-12 Season Series: 2-3-1
All-Time Series Season: 363-264-84-12
Chicago’s Season Record: 25-4-3
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Patrick Sharp – 2 Goals, 5 Assists in 8 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Pavel Datsyuk – 2 Goals, 2 Assists in 6 Games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
Tickets to this game and all 6 remaining regular-season contests at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.
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