CHICAGO -- The Detroit Red Wings were hoping to sneak up on the Chicago Blackhawks and steal a victory Sunday at United Center (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN2, NBCSN).
Instead, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (38-15-14) are searching for the smelling salt and their snarl after losing two straight games and falling to third in the Central Division.
"I wish they had won 10 in a row so they would be taking us lightly," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters in Detroit on Saturday. "They've dropped a couple in a row here and that's part of the business. Real good teams have some lulls in the season and then they usually get rolling again, and without question I'm sure they will."
Sitting just outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings (30-23-13) hope it doesn't happen Sunday night. It will be a big game for each team, but the Blackhawks are stewing about going 6-7-3 in their past 16 games and 3-5-0 in the previous eight.
Holding a 12-2-3 record against Detroit since 2010, the Blackhawks know they've got some issues to iron out. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is unhappy about the past two games, and when he's unhappy the Blackhawks are unhappy. They spent the bulk of a 30-minute practice Saturday ratcheting up the intensity during 1-on-1 battle drills and hope it helps reignite an offense that leads the NHL with 3.31 goals per game.
"You address it all kinds of ways," Quenneville said. “We did a drill [Saturday] that is kind of the way we have to win hockey games. We've got to win some 1-on-1 battles. If you're looking for the perimeter and you're looking for a non-confrontational type of game, well, the other team will accommodate that. But you're going to be on the outside the whole game."
That's been the biggest issue of late. The Blackhawks are outshooting most opponents, but many of the shots are from areas that aren't conducive to scoring goals. They've also lost a lot of those puck battles, which sabotages their dominant puck-possession game.
The past two games, one-goal losses against the Colorado Avalanche on the road and Nashville Predators on home ice, were particularly galling for Quenneville. The Blackhawks are expecting to get a boost from the return of two-way right wing Marian Hossa (upper-body injury), but Quenneville said it has to be a team-wide effort to get back to winning.
“We didn't play the right way [the past two games] to give ourselves a chance to win," Quenneville said. “We didn't challenge pucks, we weren't hard in the puck area, we were easy to play against and they outmanned us in the puck areas. When you don't come up with loose pucks anywhere around the rink, you're going to be chasing it, and we were chasing the game and the score in both games. And definitely they were winnable games."
Neither team held a morning skate, but Chicago’s lines were jumbled during practice Saturday, with the second and third lines most affected. Detroit is expected to have the same top lines, but the bottom six is a bit of a guessing game.
Veteran forward Todd Bertuzzi (lower body) became the Red Wings’ 10th injured player Friday against the Edmonton Oilers but made the trip and will take warm-up to see if he’s able to play. If Bertuzzi can’t, veteran forward Jordin Tootoo, who was recalled from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, likely will enter the lineup.
Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard will start for the Red Wings and goaltender Corey Crawford will start for Chicago. Here is how the rest of the lineups might look:
Gustav Nyquist – David Legwand – Johan Franzen
Tomas Tatar – Riley Sheahan – Justin Abdelkader
Drew Miller – Luke Glendening – Daniel Alfredsson
Teemu Pulkkinen – Cory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Danny DeKeyser
Brian Lashoff - Brendan Smith
Scratched: Jakub Kindl
Injured: Forward Henrik Zetterberg (back), center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), center Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), center Darren Helm (concussion), center Joakim Andersson (broken foot), forward Tomas Jurco (rib), forward Todd Bertuzzi (lower body), goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin), forward Danny Cleary (knee), forward Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder)
Kris Versteeg – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell – Michal Handzus – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – Andrew Shaw – Brandon Saad
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy- Michal Rozsival
Scratched: David Rundblad, Sheldon Brookbank, Peter Regin
Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff surgery)