Inspired play under new coach Denis Savard has the Chicago Blackhawks back at .500 for the first time in almost two months. That same number is also very much within reach for Peter Bondra.
Bondra will try to become the latest member of the 500-goal club on Thursday when the resurgent Blackhawks face the rival Detroit Red Wings at the United Center.
This appeared to be another lost season for the Blackhawks with only seven wins in their first 21 games, but the team has been vastly improved since Savard replaced Trent Yawney on Nov. 27.
Chicago (12-12-5) has at least one point in all eight games since the switch, going 5-0-3. A 3-1 victory at St. Louis on Tuesday put the Blackhawks back at the .500 mark for the first time since they were 4-4 on Oct. 21.
"It's a good feeling," Savard said. "We have to keep going."
Bondra, a five-time All-Star who was signed by the Blackhawks on Sunday, contributed immediately in his first game with his new team, scoring the 499th goal of his career in Tuesday's win.
"I'm definitely not in game shape, but I'm pretty close," said the 38-year-old right wing, who had not played since last season with Atlanta. "A couple of games will make a difference."
Bondra's next goal will make him the 37th in league history with 500, and the first Blackhawk to reach the milestone since Michel Goulet in 1992.
"It's not on my mind yet," Bondra said. "There has been so much excitement that I haven't thought about any milestones."
Radim Vrbata and Jeff Hamilton also scored for the Blackhawks, who won without a point from red-hot Martin Havlat. Havlat was held scoreless for only the second time in 10 games this season, but did register 10 shots on goal.
Two of Chicago's goals against the Blues came on the power play, which entered the game in a 2-for-60 slump over the 13 previous contests.
"We've struggled all year (on the power play) so I'm glad our guys came through to get us a win," Savard said. "We've got some pretty good tools now. Bondra's a good threat."
Detroit (17-8-4) had a three-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss Tuesday to visiting Ottawa despite matching a season high with 45 shots on goal.
"I just think me and somebody else made some mistakes and they scored three goals," Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek said. "Even though we outplayed them for 60 minutes."
The defeat snapped Hasek's personal five-game win streak during which he allowed only six goals.
Hasek, who began his career with Chicago in 1990, has three wins - including two shutouts - and two ties in his last five starts against the Blackhawks.
Center Pavel Datsyuk had one of the Red Wings' goals Tuesday, giving him three goals and seven points in his last four games. He has four goals and nine assists in his last nine games against the Blackhawks.
Detroit made it five straight wins at the United Center with a 2-1 win Nov. 2, and hasn't lost in Chicago since a 3-0 defeat on Dec. 28, 2003. The Red Wings are 9-0-1 in the last 10 meetings overall between the two Original Six franchises.
|Apr 07 '07||CHI 2 at DET 7||K. Calder|
|Apr 05 '07||DET 2 at CHI 3 - SO||P. Sharp|
|Mar 02 '07||CHI 2 at DET 6||V. Filppula|
|Feb 27 '07||DET 4 at CHI 1||T. Holmstrom|
|Feb 21 '07||CHI 2 at DET 4||H. Zetterberg|
|Jan 13 '07||CHI 3 at DET 6||J. Williams|
|Dec 14 '06||DET 3 at CHI 2||M. Samuelsson|
|Nov 02 '06||DET 2 at CHI 1||R. Lang|