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No team has had more of a home-ice advantage this season than the Detroit Red Wings. The final six weeks of the regular season will determine whether they will maintain that edge throughout the playoffs.
The Red Wings seek their 13th straight home victory Wednesday night when they face the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Detroit (38-16-6) is one point behind Nashville for the lead in the Central and the top spot in the Western Conference, which carries home ice through the first three rounds of the playoffs. Both teams are battling Buffalo, Anaheim and New Jersey for the league's best record.
Finishing as the NHL's top seed would be particularly important for the Red Wings, who are a league-best 21-3-3 at home. They have won 12 in a row at Joe Louis Arena since a 3-2 loss to Ottawa on Dec. 12.
The 12-game streak is two shy of the franchise record, set from Jan. 21-March 25, 1965.
Detroit has been outstanding defensively during the run, allowing 21 goals with two shutouts. The Red Wings' latest home victory on Feb. 11 was actually their worst defensive performance during the streak as they surrendered four goals in a win over Calgary.
After opening a three-game road trip with a surprising loss to Philadelphia, Detroit rebounded by outscoring Dallas and Phoenix 7-2 in a pair of wins.
Red-hot Henrik Zetterberg recorded his first career hat trick as part of a four-point night Saturday in the Red Wings' 4-1 victory over the Coyotes. Zetterberg's goals all came on power plays as he reached 30 goals for the second straight season.
"I don't think I played a great game," Zetterberg said. "The puck just bounced my way. I really can't remember how I scored the first goal and the second one did cross the goal line. I know the referee looked at that one."
Zetterberg has six goals and six assists during a four-game point streak, and has 11 goals and 13 assists in his last 10 contests.
"It's just been really good of late," he said. "Hopefully I can stay like this for a bit longer, but I just have to enjoy it because it won't last forever."
Dominik Hasek made 20 saves Saturday for his sixth straight win and 10th in 11 starts. Hasek, who began his career with Chicago in 1990, is 4-0-0 with two ties and two shutouts in his last six games against his former team.
The Blackhawks (22-28-9) and Red Wings may be longtime rivals, but the series has been one-sided of late.
Detroit is 11-0-1 against Chicago, including wins in all three meetings this season, since its last regulation loss on Dec. 28, 2003. The Red Wings are 8-0-1 in their last nine home games against the Blackhawks.
Chicago was unable to recover after allowing two first-period goals Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. Although they have lost three straight (0-1-2), Sunday marked only the third time in 10 games that the Blackhawks failed to record at least a point (5-3-2).
"We played pretty poor the first 20 minutes, and that's what decided the game," right wing Martin Havlat said. "We weren't skating at all. We were playing like we were still sleeping."
Havlat scored the Blackhawks' lone goal, his eighth in 10 games and team-high 23rd of the season.
After sitting out Sunday, Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start in net Wednesday. He is 1-7-1 with a 4.69 goal-against average in his last 10 starts against the Red Wings.