Improving Hawks renew rivalry with Red Wings
BLACKHAWKS (25-18-4) at RED WINGS (29-12-6)
TV -- WGN (HD), FS-Detroit (HD)
Last 10 --
Chicago 5-4-1; Detroit 5-3-2
Season series --
This is the third of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. The teams split the first two games, with Valterri Filppula spoiling the Hawks' Stanley Cup banner ceremony with the decisive goal in the third period of a 3-2 win in Chicago on Oct. 9. On Dec. 17, former Wing Tomas Kopecky scored twice to lead the Hawks to a 4-1 win in Chicago.
Big Story --
Despite their laundry list of injuries, the Wings could grab a share of the Western Conference lead with a victory. Meanwhile, the Hawks look to continue their strong recent play, which has seen them win four of their last five games.
Have the Hawks started to find some consistency in their game? That's certainly what they're hoping for. The goal is to keep stringing together streaks like they're on now to move up in the tumultuous Western Conference standings and not worry about each game being a life-or-death situation when it comes to making the playoffs.
"Moving ahead from where we're at right now is what we're really looking forward to (doing)," coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Getting out of that (place) where every day you're in or you're out or you're on that bubble."
The Hawks entered the weekend seventh with 54 points. They're just four points behind fourth-place Nashville, but only three points ahead of 11th-place St. Louis.
Red Wings --
After a miserable start to his season, could Jiri Hudler
finally have arrived back in Detroit?
The hope when the Wings brought the forward back after a one-season stay in Russia was that he would provide a strong second-line scoring threat. However, he had just 1 goal and 6 points in his first 30 games and was a healthy scratch for four straight games.
However, he seems to have turned the corner, and his 3-assist game Thursday against the Blues gave him 11 points in his last 12 games.
"I thought when he came back to a team where he knew everybody, he wouldn't miss a step, but obviously he did," coach Mike Babcock told the team's website. "Now he's got it back and we just want him to keep getting better defensively as well, so that he can play well in all situations. Then he sets up the winner (Thursday) in OT, so good for him."
Who's Hot --
Kopecky has 3 points in his last two games for the Blackhawks, and with 29 points in 46 games, he's already surpassed his previous career best of 21 points, set last season in 74 games. … With all the Wings' injury woes, Henrik Zetterberg
remains a dependable presence. The veteran center has a point in 14 of his last 15 games. He has 6 goals and 13 assists in that span.
Injury Report --
Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton is questionable for Saturday's game with flu-like symptoms. … The Wings' army of wounded players could be returning after the All-Star break, as forwards Pavel Datsyuk
(hand), Mike Modano
(wrist) and Danny Cleary
(ankle) are nearing their return dates. Forward Tomas Holmstrom
(hand) also could be back after the break. Defenseman Brad Stuart
(jaw) and goalie Chris Osgood
(hernia surgery) are going to be out a while longer.
Stat Pack --
Jonathan Toews' goal Sunday was the 100th of his career, making him the fourth-youngest player in team history to score that many.
Puck Drop --
Friday was a good day for the Wings, as Datsyuk, Modano and Cleary all joined the team on the ice for the first 20 minutes of practice. For Cleary, it was his first time in skates since breaking his ankle Dec. 26. Datsyuk and Modano have been skating on their own, but this was the first time they were on the ice with their teammates.
"Modano won't be back right away, but it sounds like the (other) two guys will be back in Ottawa (Feb. 2) and I think Homer (Holmstrom, broken hand) is expected as well," Babcock told MLive.com.
Cleary said he hopes to join the team for full practices starting Monday.
"I was excited to see how it's going to feel," Cleary said. "I was able get through certain things, but still there is some discomfort there. It's healing for sure."
Modano also said he was happy with his recovery from surgery to repair a severed tendon in his right wrist.
"Positive feedback about being out there skating, doing things I thought that it might take a little longer to do," Modano said. "I feel pretty good right now. Little shooting, little passing, just good to get out in some of the flow drills."