Detroit is in the same spot the Blackhawks were in before this current winning streak: eyeing the future and lining up pieces to be shipped off at the trade deadline. Forwards Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek along with defenseman Niklas Kronwall and goaltender Jimmy Howard figure prominently on that list, with all four players being seasoned NHL veterans on expiring contracts. Only Howard is without a no-movement clause, however. Additional players with longer-term contracts, like Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Mike Green and others could be moved at the deadline as Detroit continues its rebuild.
Dylan Larkin, the 22-year-old Wings center and leading scorer with 23 goals and 29 assists, figures to be the centerpiece going forward. Other young players have started cracking the lineup in Detroit as well. Tyler Bertuzzi, a 2013 second-round pick, has 28 points in 49 games during his first full NHL season, but an upper-body injury will likely have him out for this one. Center Michael Rasmussen, a 19-year-old selected ninth overall in 2017, and Dennis Cholowski, the 20th overall pick in 2016, have also grabbed playing time this season.
But the Red Wings remain focused on the future, destined for the draft lottery after this season. They’re third from the bottom heading into Sunday’s game with 49 points in 55 games. Only the New Jersey Devils (48 in 54) and Ottawa Senators (47 in 55) have lower point totals. Detroit’s lost four of its last seven, including a 3-1 defeat in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon. After a 9-2 stretch in early November, the Red Wings have slowly sank in the NHL standings and likely hope to fall even further as they try their chances in the Jack Hughes sweepstakes.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are on an unexpected rise early in 2019. Six wins in a row have them eyeing a Western Conference wild-card spot that looked virtually unattainable just three weeks ago. Here’s what the wild card standings look like Sunday morning:
The Blackhawks remain four points behind the Blues, who have two games in hand, and six points behind the Wild, who have the same number of games played. Chicago still has two other teams to leap while emerging from a three-way tie with the Coyotes and Oilers.
The road to the playoffs remains steep. And, let’s face it, if the Blackhawks are serious about this run, Sunday’s game requires two points to be obtained. The Wings have no incentive to win and are playing their second game in as many days. These are the types of games Chicago cannot give away if it hopes to continue this improbable run to the playoffs.
No lineup changes are expected from Thursday’s win over the Canucks. With no morning skate, who’s in net will remain a mystery until the pregame skate.
Let’s go Hawks!
Cam Ward starts in goal. Dahlstrom is in for Forsling. #Blackhawks— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) February 10, 2019
Caggiula — Toews — Kane
DeBrincat — Strome — Kahun
Saad — Anisimov — Perlini
Kunitz — Kruger — Hayden
Keith — Seabrook
Dahlstrom — Murphy
Koekoek — Gustafsson
Abdelkader — Larkin — Nyquist
Vanek — Nielsen — Mantha
Helm — Glendening — Athanasiou
Rasmussen — de la Rose — Ehn
Kronwall — Green
Dekeyser — Jensen
Ericsson — Cholowski
How to Watch
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Location: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago