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Red Wings-Blackhawks Preview @NHLdotcom

For one day, the "Friendly Confines" will be transformed into the "Frozen Confines."

The center of the hockey world on New Year's Day will be the corner of Clark and Addison as the Chicago Blackhawks meet the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.

Opened in 1914 and long known for its charm and ivy-covered outfield walls, the home of baseball's Cubs has also been the former home of the Chicago Bears and hosted other events, including concerts.

But on Thursday, Wrigley will feature the 701st matchup of two of the league's Original Six teams - Detroit has won four Stanley Cups in 11 years while Chicago is enjoying a resurgence after a decade of mediocrity that has included just one postseason appearance.

Though Detroit has won the first three games of the season series, Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell said this game should be different.

"It will be like a playoff game," he said. "I think the guys are revved up for it and want to show what they can do on national TV."

What fans will see are two of the league's top offenses. Detroit features six players with at least 11 goals, and leads the NHL with 132 scored this season. Chicago is fourth with 123 goals, but 45 have come from Patrick Sharp (19), reigning Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane (16) and rookie Kris Versteeg (10).

A pair of hot goaltenders also will be tested. The Blackhawks' official Web site reported Cristobal Huet will start for Chicago (20-7-7), which trails Central Division-leading Detroit (24-7-5) by six points with two games in hand.

Huet has split time with Nikolai Khabibulin this season, and is 9-5-3 with a 2.30 goals-against average and one shutout, but didn't lose in regulation in December. In seven starts, Huet was 6-0-1 with a 1.41 GAA, and has conceded just four goals during a five-game winning streak.

The only thing standing between Huet and a perfect record was a 5-4 shootout loss on Dec. 7 in Detroit.

Ty Conklin, a veteran of outdoor games, will again start for the Red Wings in place of Chris Osgood, who remains day-to-day with a groin injury.

While with the Oilers in 2003, Conklin stopped 19 shots in a 4-3 loss to Montreal before more than 57,000 fans in the Heritage Classic at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium. Last New Year's Day, Conklin had 36 saves through overtime for Pittsburgh in a 2-1 shootout win over Buffalo in front of 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. in the league's first Winter Classic.

Though playing outside in the regular season is still something of a novelty, Conklin said it's really business as usual.

"Once it starts, it turns into a hockey game," said Conklin, 6-0-0 with a 2.04 GAA in his career against Chicago.

Perhaps the biggest issue going into this game will be the condition of the ice and the weather forecast. Players practiced on Wednesday, and came away less than impressed.

"It's so cold out there it's chipping away," said 46-year-old Chicago native and Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios. "You worry about the safety of the players. Whatever happens to both teams, hopefully it's not a hazard as far as injuries."

It's expected to be mostly cloudy in Chicago on Thursday with a high of 34 degrees and a 20 percent chance of snow.

The ice may not be the only thing that's chippy. The Blackhawks' franchise-record nine-game winning streak was snapped with a 4-0 road loss to the Red Wings on Monday in a contest that featured plenty of rough play.

Kane suffered a leg injury as the result of a hard check by Detroit's Dan Cleary, and didn't practice on Wednesday.

"I'm going to try it tomorrow. I'm going to do my best to treat it as much as I can today," Kane said. "Last night I was just kind of ahead and (my) skate got caught in the ice. Unfortunate play. Clean hit with that. Nothing you can do about it."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Kane will play.

Conklin made 36 saves for his seventh career shutout, and Johan Franzen scored twice for the defending champions.

"You've got to play well against the good teams," said Franzen, who is tied with Marian Hossa for the team lead with 17 goals. "We kind of need that on this team to get motivated."

Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and assist, giving him seven goals and nine assists in a season-high eight-game points streak. Datsyuk leads Detroit with 26 assists and 41 points.

Six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom is expected to be back in the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury.

EA SPORTS NHL09 Game Predictions
Detroit 2
Chicago 3 (OT)
Three Stars
G: 3 | A: 0

G: 0 | A: 3

G: 1 | A: 0


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