The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings used to represent one of the great rivalries in the NHL not too long ago. On Friday, the two teams meet for their only game at Joe Louis Arena this season in a cross-conference matchup that still bothers the heck out of me.
I wasn't around here when the 'Hawks and Wings were initially split into different conferences, but I can only imagine the kind of response it got. These are two of the great rivals in hockey history, beloved by two cities less than 300 miles apart, and yet they play just twice a year now. For the lack of a better term, it sucks.
But hey, that just means we'll have to appreciate these special matchups even more than we used to. With the Blackhawks coming off a solid 3-2 shooutout win over Tampa Bay -- their third victory in four games -- the team has a chance to really get rolling with a big win in the Motor City on Friday.
As for the game at hand, don't be surprised if we get a repeat of the power play struggles we saw against the Lightning on Tuesday. Chicago and Detroit are No. 1 and No. 2 in the NHL in penalty kill percentage, respectively, and neither has been especially effective with the man advantage, either.
The Red Wings are always dangerous when healthy. Considering that Pavel Datsyuk is expected to suit up, the 'Hawks should be ready for a classic battle.
Opponent Breakdown: Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have a positive goal differential this season, but currently sit sixth in the Atlantic Division with a 7-3-5 record. The team's abysmal overtime record (2-5) has defined a season in which Detroit has actually looked like a pretty good team.
Entering Friday's game, the Red Wings are currently 15th in the NHL in goals scored and 7th in goals allowed. The team is playing opponents tough and has only lost two games by more than a goal -- like the 'Hawks, this is a team that's more or less been competitive in every single game.
Detroit is also a strong possession team in a similar vein to Chicago. The Red Wings are currently fourth in the NHL in overall CF% and sixth in overall Fenwick, and only three teams -- CHI, NYI, ARI -- start play in their offensive zone more frequently.
The results haven't quite been there yet, but when healthy, Detroit is still among the better teams in the Eastern Conference as long as guys like Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and coach Mike Babcock are leading the way. So the 'Hawks should have their hands full Friday night, especially on the road.
The Blackhawks are still without Patrick Sharp and Daniel Carcillo. The latter is expected to return Sunday against Dallas.
The Red Wings are getting back Datsyuk after some time off, and Tomas Jurco is also back after being a healthy scratch the past three games. Stephen Weiss remains sidelined with a pulled groin.
|Blackhawks vs. Red Wings lineups
|Also see: Winging It In Motown, SBN's blog|
When: 6:30p.m. CT
Where: Joe Louis Arena