RED WINGS (7-5-3) at BLUE JACKETS (9-5-2)
Detroit 5-2-3; Columbus 4-4-2
First of six meetings this season -- the next two won't come until late December and the final three take place during a six-game span in April that closes out the regular season.
They split last season's series, with Detroit picking up an extra point thanks to a 3-2 overtime loss in Columbus on Jan. 27. The Blue Jackets enjoyed the largest margin of victory in an 8-2 rout at Joe Louis Arena on March 7. However, the Red Wings got their revenge with a four-game sweep when the teams met in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
These Central Division rivals have met many a time in the past, but Wednesday's matchup brings with it a unique twist -- this time, the Red Wings are looking up at the Blue Jackets in the standings. Even with a pedestrian record over its last 10 games, Columbus holds a share of first place, which had pretty much been Detroit's birthright for most of this decade.
It's starting to come together for Detroit, which has earned at least one point in eight of its last 10 games. However, the Wings were soundly defeated, 5-1, by Toronto on Saturday in the annual Hall of Fame Game. Long-time captain Steve Yzerman and ex-Wings Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille were among the inductees into the Hall on Monday night.
"He would step up and say things at the right moment and when it was needed, but the most important thing is he would back it up on the ice," current captain Nicklas Lidstrom
told NHL.com about Yzerman. "He would lead by example, and I think his determination really showed when the game was on the line."
A three-goal third period rallied Columbus to a 3-2 win over Carolina on Saturday, giving the team three wins in four games this month. Nikita Filatov, Jared Boll
and Rick Nash
all lit the lamp in the first 3:31 of the third for all the offense the Jackets would require.
"We just went out there like crazy and played with more energy, which is why we scored three goals in about five minutes," Filatov said.
Detroit forward Dan Cleary recorded his 100th NHL goal in the loss to Toronto. Columbus goalie Steve Mason
has regained his rookie form, going 2-0-2 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .917 save percentage over his last four starts.
Detroit has been hit hard since the start of the season, with Jason Williams (broken fibula) recently joining Valtteri Filppula
(broken wrist), Johan Franzen
(torn ACL) and Andreas Lilja (concussion) on the injury list. Lilja is skating, but hasn't been cleared for contact.
Columbus recently lost forward Kristian Huselius
for about a week with an arm injury. Fredrik Modin (knee) and Andrew Murray (muscle tear) remain on injured reserve.
When Ken Hitchcock takes his place behind the Columbus bench Wednesday, he'll be coaching in his 1,000th NHL game. Hitchcock began in Dallas, where he led the Stars to the Stanley Cup in 1999 and got them back again the following season, and also had a stint in Philadelphia before taking the reins with the Jackets in November 2006. He has a 520-350-129 record.
Nash told NHL.com prior to the preseason that the Jackets learned a lot from their quick playoff ouster by the Wings. Now it's time to apply some of that on the ice. A win would be a strong statement that Columbus doesn't intend to give up possession of the Central lead easily.