GAME: Detroit Red Wings (22-11-4-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (8-18-7-3).TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EST.
A dominant December has helped move the Detroit Red Wings to the top of the Western Conference.
They should be an even stronger team in the coming weeks.
Detroit expects to have forward Tomas Holmstrom back in the lineup when it faces the struggling Chicago Blackhawks for the third time in two weeks.
Although the Red Wings have been hit hard by injuries to key players, they hold a four-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division and are challenging Toronto for the league's best record.
Detroit has begun to get some of its injured players back and several others are close to returning.
Left wing Ray Whitney and captain Steve Yzerman recently returned after missing time with groin injuries, and Holmstrom, who hasn't played since separating his right shoulder on Nov. 26, is expected to return Sunday.
Defenseman Chris Chelios, out since Dec. 8 with a sprained knee, has been cleared to play Wednesday against Atlanta. Starting goaltender Dominik Hasek, sidelined for the third time this season with a groin injury, has started skating but no date has been set for his return.
Curtis Joseph continued to play well in Hasek's place Friday, stopping 22 shots in Detroit's 2-2 tie against Minnesota.
"Obviously, when you come back (from the holiday break), you want to come back with a win," Draper said. "But we played hard, and we were able to get a point out of it."
Joseph is 5-2-1 since he was brought back from the minors because of Hasek's injury. Manny Legace has also played well, yielding two goals or fewer in six of his last seven games.
Coming off just their second victory in 21 games, the Blackhawks became the first team this season to lose at home to Columbus, 4-1 on Friday.
Scott Nichol scored for Chicago, 2-13-4-3 in its last 22 games.
"The first couple of shifts (of the third period) we overhandled the puck," Chicago coach Brian Sutter said. "We gave up the puck about five times. No matter who you play, it's going to kill you."
At least part of Chicago's problems can be attributed to the absence of top forwards Alex Zhamnov and Eric Daze and starting goalie Jocelyn Thibault. Zhamnov, who underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc on Oct. 16, has resumed skating and there is an outside chance he could play Sunday.
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