The Detroit Red Wings have been a fixture near the top of the Western Conference in recent years. The improving Columbus Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are getting used to those surroundings.
On Friday night, the Blue Jackets (8-4-2) will get a chance to further legitimize their fast start when they travel to Joe Louis Arena and try to end the first-place Red Wings' eight-game winning streak.
Not much was expected from Columbus at the start of the season, but the Blue Jackets have allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference, thanks partly to league-leading numbers from goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who's posted a 1.12 goals-against average and five shutouts.
Leclaire, though, wasn't in net when Columbus lost 5-2 to Chicago on Wednesday. Fredrik Norrena made 30 saves, but gave up three goals in a 3:57 span of the third period that erased a one-goal lead and snapped Columbus' six-game points streak (5-0-1).
"Except for the last five minutes of the second period and first eight of the third, we didn't have any energy," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played a very loose game and paid for it."
They'll have to tighten up against Detroit (12-2-1), which hasn't lost since Oct. 15, allowing two goals or fewer in all eight games over that span. Goalie Chris Osgood has carried the load in net since Dominik Hasek went down with a hip injury, though the six-time Vezina Trophy winner is expected to start this game.
Hasek is 6-2-0 with a 1.81 GAA in his career against Columbus. He made 35 saves on April 3 in a 3-0 home win over the Blue Jackets when he last faced them on April 3.
On the offensive side, things have gone equally well for the Wings. Henrik Zetterberg leads the league with 25 points and he broke the franchise record for longest points streak to start a season with an assist in Wednesday's 3-2 shootout win over Nashville.
That game may have been Detroit's worst in weeks. Coming off a five-day layoff, Detroit blew a 2-0 lead with eight minutes to play.
"I don't think any of it was fantastic. I've been nervous for five days," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. "I knew this was coming. I was scared about it."
But perhaps other teams should be scared of Detroit, which is no stranger to fast starts. They had this same record through 15 games two years ago, when they started 12-1-0 and 15-2-1.
Last year, they started 12-4-1, and won the Central Division for the seventh straight season.
On the other hand, in Hitchcock's first full season as coach, this is easily Columbus' best start in club history. The Blue Jackets have just 38 goals, 10 coming from Rick Nash.
Under Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets have become a defensive-minded club. Before the loss in Chicago, Columbus had allowed three total goals in its previous five games.
Columbus' Sergei Fedorov, who played 13 seasons in Detroit, but has been held without a point in his last seven trips to Joe Louis Arena as a visitor.
Detroit is 14-2-2 all-time at home against Columbus.