Hawks, Wings set for another battle
BLACKHAWKS (35-24-7) AT RED WINGS (43-19-3)
: NHLN-US (HD),WGN,FS-D
: Chicago 6-4-0; Detroit 7-2-1.
: It couldn't get much closer that it's been through the first four games of the six-game season set. Each team has won twice, with the Red Wings winning in overtime on Jan. 8 in Chicago and Jan. 14 in Detroit and the Blackhawks prevailing at home on Dec. 30 and again on Feb. 21 at the United Center. All four of the games have been decided by one goal.
: Neither team will have several key players because of injuries, including the captains of both teams. Jonathan Toews continues to heal from what's believed to be a concussion, while Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom
has missed the past two games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle that happened a week ago blocking a slap shot. Pavel Datsyuk
will also miss the game while he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery that happened the morning of the last time the old Original Six rivals met in Chicago. Toews didn't play in that game, either, but that didn't stop it from being a one-goal thriller. This game is more valuable in the standings to the Hawks, who are still sitting fourth in the Central Division and sixth in the Western Conference, not too far ahead of the two teams behind them in the top eight.
: Chicago is coming off a pair of big wins against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and the Ottawa Senators on the road Friday night. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville called the win against the Senators his team's best of the season, and the fact it came without Toews or defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador was even more impressive. Chicago is getting solid goaltending out of veteran Ray Emery of late and getting a lot of energy and production from five rookies who are currently in the starting lineup. The Hawks have also gotten two stellar performances in a row by Patrick Kane, who is manning the middle of the top line without Toews around and having a big impact.
"Give him credit," Quenneville said on Saturday. "He's had two outstanding games. Puck possession, speed off the attack and that line in the offensive zone is cycling the puck. Plus, he's back to center with a real opportunity to take charge here with the team a little bit without (Toews) around. Hopefully he continues to play that way."
: After hitting a bump in the road and losing three straight games a week ago, Detroit has managed to get back on the winning track with back-to-back wins against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road Tuesday and the Minnesota Wild at home on Friday. That game against the Wild was impressive to watch, as the Wings scored early and often in a 6-0 thrashing of Minnesota. The line of Valtteri Filppula
, Henrik Zetterberg
and Jiri Hudler
was dominant, while Detroit's other three forward lines were nearly as good in their respective roles. The Wings were also going with a young defense corps that featured former No.1 draft picks Jakub Kindl
and rookie Brendan Smith
as one of the pairings. Those two in particular have looked good in the last two games without Lidstrom, but Chicago's skill level will be a good measuring stick.
"It'll be a good test for them," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "You want to play the real good teams. I imagine we're going to be a test for their D and they'll be a test for ours."
: Kane has goals in two of the last three games and was the best overall player on the ice against Ottawa despite not recording a single point; Zetterberg (2 goals, 6 assists) and Filppula (4 goals, 3 assists) both have three straight multi-point games for the Red Wings.
: Jonathan Toews, Steve Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all out with upper-body injuries believed to be concussion related for the Blackhawks; Jonathan Ericsson
(fractured wrist), Pavel Datsyuk
(knee) and Nicklas Lidstrom
(ankle) are all out for Sunday's game, while Todd Bertuzzi
is a game-time decision with a groin issue that flared up on Friday night against Minnesota.
: Chicago is 21-1-0 this season when Andrew Brunette records a point; Detroit leads the NHL in goals scored at home with 117 and second in goals against (56).
: "They're all 3-2 aren't they? Probably be 3-2 tomorrow. Just make sure we got 3." -- Detroit coach Mike Babcock, referring to the final score of the first four games in the season series between Chicago and Detroit