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Blackhawks kickoff weekend back-to-back with Red Wings on Saturday night

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Detroit’s struggled most of the season but has won two of its last three games.

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

To close out the month of February, the Blackhawks host a pair of games against the Red Wings this weekend, starting with Saturday night’s game at the United Center.

Detroit maintains its spot in the Central Division dungeon with a 6-13-3 record, good for a measly 15 points in 22 games. The race to the bottom of the league remains a dead heat with the Senators (7-14-1), who have an equal .341 points percentage as the Red Wings. Detroit has shown signs of life in its last few outings, however, winning two of its last three. That includes a 5-2 win at home against the Predators on Thursday night and a 2-1 win over the Panthers last Saturday. The defeat of Nashville was sparked by a pair of veterans: Jonathan Bernier in net (37 saves on 39 shots) and Sam Gagner, who had a hat trick. It was Gagner’s first hat trick since a 2012 game against the Blackhawks with a box score for all who dare wish to revisit that dreadful night.

The Tale of the Tape below details Detroit’s widespread incompetence, which involves statistics both advanced and not. Perhaps the most “impressive” part of Detroit’s recent run of play is its inability to convert on the power play:

Veteran Bobby Ryan (5 G, 6 A) and youngster Dylan Larkin (4 G, 7 A) are tied for the team lead with 11 points apiece and provide the majority of the scoring threat for Detroit. Despite the abysmal play in front of him, Bernier has posted respectable numbers in net (5-3-0, .918 save percentage, 2.59 goals-against average) — very much a “Davy Crockett at the Alamo” type of performance. Fellow veteran Thomas Greiss (1-10-3, .891 SV%, 3.16 GAA) has not been as fortunate.

Indications from the morning skate suggest that Malcolm Subban will be in net for the Blackhawks, fresh off the first shutout win of his Blackhawks’ career. With Collin Delia among the players sent down to the AHL earlier this week, Subban and Lankinen seem likely to split the goaltending responsibilities in this weekend’s back-to-back. No significant changes are expected anywhere else in the Chicago lineup which still boasts Patrick Kane — something that gives the Blackhawks an advantage over a majority of NHL lineups but especially over the Red Wings. His MVP-like performance (10 G, 21 A) through the first 21 games have brought out the best in Alex DeBrincat (9 G, 11 A) and give the Blackhawks an ever-present scoring threat on its top line. Finding other scoring lines this weekend that can produce consistently would be a welcome boost for Chicago, which has a murderous schedule awaiting in the month of March.

But we can worry about that later. Right now, the short-term focus should be to obtain at least three points in this weekend’s games with all four certainly within the Blackhawks’ reach. Perfect time to get right before the cream of the Central Division’s crop comes calling.

Let’s go Hawks!

Tale of the tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Red Wings

46.42% (29th) — Corsi For — 47.87% (26th)

45.68% (28th) — Expected goals for — 47.45% (25th)

2.95 (13rd) — Goals per game — 2.00 (30th)

2.81 (17th) — Goals against per game — 3.09 (23rd)

47.2% (27th) — Faceoffs — 53.2% (4th)

32.8% (2nd) — Power play — 6.1% (31st)

77.3% (20th) — Penalty kill — 70.3% (29th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Kurashev — Kane

Hagel — Wallmark — Kubalik

Suter — Soderberg — Janmark

Highmore — Kampf — Carpenter

Keith — Mitchell

Murphy — Zadorov

de Haan — Boqvist

Subban

Lankinen

Red Wings

Fabbri — Larkin — Mantha

Ryan — Namestnikov — Zadina

Erne — Glendening — Helm

Brome — Filppula — Gagner

DeKeyser — Hronek

Staal — Merrill

Djoos — Nemeth

Bernier/Greiss

How to watch

When: 7:00 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN+

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV