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If the Detroit Red Wings are to record the longest winning streak in franchise history Sunday, they'll have to beat the team that has given them the most trouble this season.
The Red Wings' mastery of most opponents this season has not included the Chicago Blackhawks - a team they have otherwise dominated this decade - and that is the Central Division rival they must defeat to post a club-record 10th straight win.
Detroit (13-2-1) leads the Western Conference with 27 points and has tied a team record with nine straight wins, never allowing more than two goals and outscoring opponents 33-14. The Red Wings have not lost since a 6-3 defeat at Anaheim on Oct. 15, winning their next five road games.
Their only two losses other than that one both came to the Blackhawks (9-7-0). Detroit had won 15 of the previous 17 meetings entering this season.
With a 4-3 shootout loss in Chicago on Oct. 6 and a 3-2 home loss to the Blackhawks six days later, Detroit is at risk of dropping three straight in this series for the first time since Nov. 3-Dec. 29, 2000.
"They've been playing well against us," Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Another team that's tough to get scoring chances on. So, you know, we're gonna have our hands full on Sunday."
The Wings got their ninth win in a row by beating Columbus 4-1 on Friday, netting two power-play goals for a third straight game.
"The power play worked for us," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "But I thought as the game went on, we got better and better."
Henrik Zetterberg has at least a point in all 16 of Detroit's games, extending that franchise-record streak by scoring with 1:28 to play Friday. He has eight goals and five assists during the current win streak, and ranks among the league leaders with 13 goals and 26 points.
The All-Star left wing has seven goals and 14 points in the last seven games against the Blackhawks, including three assists in last month's game at Chicago.
Dan Cleary scored two goals against the Blue Jackets, giving him four - two on the power play - in the last three games. The veteran right wing had only one goal in the first 13 games of the season and was held pointless in two matchups with the Blackhawks, who drafted him 13th overall in 1997.
The Red Wings hope Dominik Hasek can build on his first game since missing five with a hip injury. The six-time Vezina Trophy winner made 15 saves against Columbus, but he struggled in both October games against Chicago, allowing six goals on 56 shots.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, hope the potential return of Martin Havlat can help them halt Detroit's run and win a season-high third consecutive game.
Havlat has resumed practicing with contact and could make his first appearance since hurting his shoulder in a season-opening 1-0 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 4. The right wing has struggled with injuries since signing a three-year contract with Chicago last season. He led the team with 25 goals and 57 points in 2006-07 despite being limited to 56 games.
Chicago won for the fourth time in five games Friday, beating St. Louis 4-2 after taking the lead for good on power-play goals by Patrick Kane and Jim Vandermeer in the first period.
"When we needed goals, the power play was there again," said Blackhawks goaltender Patrick Lalime, who made 23 saves. "It's fun to be part of this, to be contributing."
Chicago also scored its fourth short-handed goal in four games, and its five on the season rank among the league leaders.
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