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Wings host Blackhawks in front of national audience

by Brian Hunter
BLACKHAWKS (33-11-4) at RED WINGS (24-16-7)

Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Detroit 6-2-2

Season Series:
Fourth of six meetings this season. Detroit used a three-goal second period to record a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena on Oct. 8. Chicago responded with a pair of 3-0 victories in a four-day span last month. Cristobal Huet made 20 saves at the United Center on Dec. 20 and Antti Niemi stopped all 33 shots he faced back at the Joe on Dec. 23.

Big Story:
NBC begins its national telecasts on Sunday with a real crowd-pleaser, pitting Original Six rivals who met in last season's Western Conference Finals against one another. Both teams played on Saturday afternoon and then had to travel to Detroit for this game. Chicago began an eight-game road trip by hanging on for a 6-5 win in Columbus while Detroit blew a two-goal lead and lost 3-2 in a shootout in Dallas.

Team Scope:

The team with the best home record in the League will have to continue its battle for the Presidents' Trophy lead away from the friendly confines of the United Center until the calendar changes over to February. That didn't seem to bother the Blackhawks on Saturday, as they completed a home-and-home sweep of the Blue Jackets by rallying for three goals in the third period. Jonathan Toews scored two of them on man advantages.

"We were waiting for that opportunity to get the power play going," Toews said. "It clicked for us at the right moment. That was a tough game, giving up that lead there during the second period, and we just knew we had to stick with it. It's nice when you shoot the puck and you see a couple go in."

Red Wings:
Battling to get back into the top eight in the West, Detroit actually lost ground on Saturday as it got only a point in Dallas and eight-place Los Angeles won its game in a shootout over Boston. The Red Wings are two points out. They led 2-0 in the first on goals by Todd Bertuzzi and Brian Rafalski, but the Stars came back to force overtime and eventually won on a controversial Steve Ott goal in the sixth round of the shootout. An inconclusive video replay led to the on-ice call of a goal being upheld.

"The video replay showed the puck didn't go in the net," coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought that's why we had video replay. The referee on the goal line called it (no good), but then they determined I guess that he was blocked out (by goalie Jimmy Howard) and the (second) referee (trailing the play) decided it went in the net."

Who's Hot:
Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa has six goals and 11 points in his last eight games. … Howard is 6-2-2 in his last 10 starts for the Wings and has allowed two goals or less eight times.

Injury Report:
Chicago forwards Adam Burish and Dave Bolland remain on injured reserve following knee surgery and back surgery, respectively.

Detroit has welcomed several players back to its lineup in the past month but still has a significant injury list that features defensemen Niklas Kronwall (sprained MCL) and Andreas Lilja (post-concussion symptoms) and forwards Johan Franzen (knee surgery) and Jason Williams (broken fibula). Forward Tomas Holmstrom went down earlier this month with a broken foot that will sideline him several weeks.

Stat Pack:
Huet and Niemi each have four shutouts this season, giving the Blackhawks a League-leading eight. … The Red Wings dropped to 3-4 in shootouts.

Puck Drop:
An angry Babcock was a man of few words after Saturday's loss, but his comments indicated Detroit will have to move on quickly and prepare for Chicago.

"I thought our guys played hard today," Babcock said. "We had good goaltending. We've got to prepare for a game tomorrow."

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