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Matchup: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
Venue: Joe Louis Arena; Detroit, MI
Time: 12:30 PM EST
Television: National- NBC
The Detroit Red Wings (17-12-5, 39 points, 7th place Western Conference) return to the friendly confines of Joe Louis Arena this afternoon after a very successful road trip that saw them take six out of a possible eight points in four games. The Red Wings will look to continue their recent success when the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks (25-5-3, 53 points, 1st place Western Conference) come into town in a matinee match. This game is the beginning of a quick two game homestand before they head out west once again.
The Red Wings couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to their road trip winning the first three games. They just wish the last game of the trip would have ended a little better. Another solid goaltending effort from Jimmy Howard held the San Jose Sharks to only two goals for the game, but the offense failed to find its groove and the Red Wings were blanked 2-0 to end the road trip with a 3-1-1 record. The shutout also snapped the Red Wings streak of six consecutive road games with a powerplay goal and eight consecutive games overall with a powerplay goal. The Wings will look to start a new streak of powerplay goals against the Blackhawks this afternoon, though it may be a tough task to find the back of the net. This season, the Blackhawks penalty killing has been superb. The Blackhawks penalty kill this season is currently sixth overall in the league, operating at an 84.5% success rate.
Since starting the season with the record of 24 straight games without a regulation loss, the Blackhawks have come back to earth and have only played average hockey in that period posting a 5-5-0 record. They come into this game off of a tough loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks who scored with just over a minute left in regulation to win 2-1 on Friday night. The Blackhawks have taken the first two games of this season series winning 2-1 in overtime on January 27th and 2-1 in a shootout on March 3rd. The two wins this season have pushed the Blackhawks win streak over the Red Wings to six games in a row.
The Red Wings will continue to ride their hot goaltender by starting Jimmy Howard once again in net. He has been excellent in the month of March giving up more than two goals only one time. In March, Howard is 6-2-2 with a .945 save percentage. In his career, Howard is 4-6-4 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.66 GAA in nine games against the Hawks. The Red Wings are expected to get Johan Franzen and Mikael Samuelsson back in the lineup for the game this afternoon. Franzen was diagnosed with a lower body injury in the 2-0 loss to the Sharks Thursday night. Mikael Samuelsson has played in only three games this season posting only 1 point (1 assist). He has been out since February 11th when he broke his finger in practice.
The Blackhawks are expected to start Corey Crawford in net who is 2-0 against the Red Wings this sesason while giving up only 1 goal in each of the two games. In his career, Crawford is 9-2-2 with a .942 save percentage and 1.88 GAA in 13 games against the Red Wings. His save percentage and GAA is his best against any opponent he has faced more than 10 times in his career. The Blackhawks will be without Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp once again. Hossa is sitting out with an upper body injury which has sidelined him since March 18th. He is expected to return to action Monday when the Hawks take on Nashville. Sharp is out while nursing an injured shoulder. He has not played since a 3-2 win against Colorado on March 6th. He is expected to miss possibly one more game after this afternoon’s game.
This will be the last meeting of the Red Wings and Balckhawks at Joe Louis arena as Central Division rivals, as the Red Wings will be moving to the Eastern Conference next season. The Blackhawks and Red Wings have been competing against each other in the same division since the 1981-1982 season. The next time the Blackhawks visit Joe Louis Arena, they will be members of not only a different division but a different conference.
Players To Watch:
- Mikael Samuelsson is back in action since he broke his finger in practice on February 19th. After the lengthy time on the shelf, it will be interesting to see if he can step back into top 6 minutes and produce like the Red Wings had hoped he would when they first signed him in the offseason. Gustav Nyquist will most likely be sent down to make room for Samuelsson, so he needs to produce if he is going to be replacing some of the best speed the Red Wings had on their roster.
- Jakub Kindl has been getting better and better as the season goes on. He looks more comfortable making plays every game and has turned into a steady defenseman on the blue line for the Red Wings. He currently leads the team with a +17 skater rating and has recorded 3 points in his past 4 games (3 assists). In 55 games last season, Kindle tallied 13 points (1 goal, 12 assists). In the 27 games played this season, he has already accumulated 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists).
- Patrick Kane currently leads the Blackhawks in goals (18), assists (24), and points (42). Kane is averaging 1.27 points per game this season and has been mentioned in Hart Trophy conversations. Kane’s ‘2 points are good for fifth overall in the NHL and tops in the Western Conference, 4 points ahead of second best Ryan Getzlaf. Kane is always dangerous against the Red Wings posting 28 points (8 goals, 20 assists) in 33 career games. He score the tying goal on a powerplay with just over a minute to go in the Hawks 2-1 victory over the Red Wings on March 3rd.
- Jonathan Toews has had a strong month of March, posting 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) in 13 games. In the two games this season against the Red Wings, Toews has posted only one assist though he has had success against the Red Wings in his career. He has tallied 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in 29 career games against the Wings.
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