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Red Wings, Blackhawks play as inter-conference rivals

by Brian Hedger

BLACKHAWKS (32-8-11) at RED WINGS (21-18-10)


Last 10: Chicago 5-1-4; Detroit 4-5-1

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit's move to the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference reduced the frequency of their games but might increase the importance for each contest between the former Central Division rivals.


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Big story: Other than preseason, this will be the first time the Red Wings and Blackhawks face each other since their memorable seven-game series last year in the Western Conference Semifinals, won by Chicago in overtime of Game 7 on a goal by Brent Seabrook.

Since then, the Original Six stalwarts have taken opposite paths. Chicago is still among the NHL's elite while defending their 2013 Stanley Cup and Detroit is struggling to keep its head above water amid a slew of injuries that never seem to heal.

Chicago leads the Central Division with 75 points and trails only the Anaheim Ducks in the chase for the Presidents' Trophy, while Detroit is fifth in the Atlantic and sits among four teams just outside the East's final Stanley Cup Playoffs wild card spot.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago is coming off a big weekend that featured home victories against the Ducks and Boston Bruins, whom they defeated in six games to win the Cup last June.

The Blackhawks will continue the playoff reunion tour against the Red Wings, who led that series 3-1 before Chicago stormed back to win it with three straight victories.

"I'm sure in the building, it'll be an exciting place knowing we're not there as much," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There will be Hawks fans. There will be Wings fans. Everybody will be in it to a different level than anyone we play. And we're visiting back [to] a great seven-game series that could have gone either way. I'm sure that we can recapture the history."

Red Wings: The glut of injuries has forced Detroit to put a lot of inexperienced players in big roles and the St. Louis Blues dominated them Monday night in the Red Wings' 4-1 loss on home ice.

Goaltender Jimmy Howard left the game midway through with a flare-up in the same knee that kept him out eight games in December, but the Red Wings will get Jonas Gustavsson (groin) back from injured reserve in time to start against the Blackhawks. Detroit also got speedy center Darren Helm back from an injury.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock has been pleased, overall, with how his "kids" have responded, but not against the Blues. He'll demand better Wednesday.

"I was disappointed with our compete level," Babcock said. "We have a lot of kids in this room, so we try to be as positive as we can every day. It's their job to give us something every day to be positive about, and it's our job to catch them doing good things. But when we're not doing good things [and] we're not competing hard enough I tell them. It's straightforward. There's no gray area, it's either black or white."

Who's hot: Former Red Wings forward Marian Hossa has five goals and two assists during a five-game point streak. … Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg assisted on his team's lone goal against the Blues and has three points in his past two games (one goal).

Injury report: Chicago is healthy outside of veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (long-term injured-reserve, rotator cuff surgery). … Detroit centers Joakim Andersson (lower body) and Cory Emmerton (finger) are day-to-day and likely won't play. Center Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), forward Johan Franzen (upper body), forward Stephen Weiss (sports hernia surgery) and forward Daniel Alfredsson (back) are all out. Aside from Gustavsson, Detroit might also get top-pair defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (broken rib) off IR against the Blackhawks.

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