Season Series: Each of the first three games has finished in a final score of 3-2 with the Blackhawks winning the first meeting by that count on Dec. 30 and the Red Wings taking the next two games by that score in overtime. Pavel Datsyuk won the second game on Jan. 8 in Chicago with an OT game-winner and then Todd Bertuzzi ended the third meeting in overtime on Jan. 14 at Joe Louis Arena – which was the 14th in Detroit’s NHL record string of 23 straight home wins.
Big Story: While the Red Wings were busy stacking the last six of their record home winning streak, the Blackhawks were tumbling in an ugly nine-game winless skid that coincided with a monster nine-game road trip. Since they dropped the ninth game in Nashville, however, the Hawks have caught fire and won three straight games against the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets on the road before beating the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Sunday.
The Red Wings still feel like they have something to prove on the road, but have a lot of confidence going thanks to their incredible run of success back home in the Motor City. They've won six straight games and only lost once in regulation in the past 10 contests. Starting goalie Jimmy Howard will also get his first start in goal since breaking his right index finger on Jan. 2 in Vancouver.
Red Wings: The big question going into this game will be about Howard and how he feels getting back in net after missing eight games and nearly 20 days, which is a long time for a goalie not to track pucks in live game action. In his place, 32-year old journeyman backup Joey MacDonald earned himself a spot on the Detroit roster by winning the last six games and posting impressive secondary numbers (1.66 goals-against average, .934 save percentage). In fact, Detroit put Ty Conklin on waivers Monday and will send him to the minors if he isn’t claimed. MacDonald started seven of the eight games that Howard missed and played in all of them – going 6-1-1 overall. MacDonald also started on Sunday in a 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks, but will take a backseat on Tuesday in order to get Howard (32 wins) back in the groove of what had been a breakout season prior to the injury.
"Why not? Let's do it … it's that simple," Howard said of jumping right back in a tough road game against a hot team. "As far as I know, since I've been out the nets haven't changed and neither has the size of the puck. I'm ready to get back out there."
Blackhawks: While in Detroit last week, Nashville coach Barry Trotz was asked about the Hawks' struggles and said he thought they might've hit "rock bottom" in a game at Phoenix before losing to his own Predators on Valentine's Day. As the next three games turned out, Trotz might've been right on target with that assessment. The Hawks won their past three games – including a tight 3-1 home victory against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. Defensively, 2010 Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith has been red hot of late, but second-year goalie Corey Crawford also appears to be getting his confidence back after a rough stretch of games during the nine-game winless stretch.
"I was always comfortable with our goalies," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Sunday's win. "It was just a matter of time where we needed a goalie win, I thought [this] was a goalie win. He's proven it to us that he's capable of doing it. [Crawford] was instrumental in keeping us in the game. He made several key stops, was big."
Who's Hot: Despite playing through an undisclosed lower-body injury that limits his mobility on the ice, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg is scorching hot with 4 goals and 7 assists in the past eight games; Keith has a goal and 5 assists in his past seven games, while Bryan Bickell has 2 goals and 2 assists in the past six games for the Blackhawks.
Injury Report: Patrick Eaves (concussion) is still out indefinitely after taking a slapshot to the side of the face on Dec. 26 against Nashville, while Danny Cleary (knee soreness) is hoping to play after missing five games for the Red Wings; Daniel Carcillo (knee) is out for the season, while defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador have both been out since Feb. 10 with upper-body injuries.
Stat Pack: Detroit's penalty killers have killed off 25 of the past 28 power plays faced in the past seven games; Chicago has gone 0-for-27 on the power play in the past 10 games and hasn't potted a goal with the man-advantage since Jan. 21 in Nashville.
Puck Drop: The Red Wings have 35 goals from their defensemen, which leads the League – while the Hawks have scored just 14 goals from the back end.