NHL

Blackhawks-Red Wings Preview

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After ending the Detroit Red Wings' stay in the Western Conference with an impressive playoff comeback in 2013, the Chicago Blackhawks hope to continue their regular-season series success in the next chapter of this Original Six rivalry.

Coming off victories over two of the league's top teams, the visiting Blackhawks look for an eighth straight regular-season win over a banged-up Red Wings club that will be without its top goaltender Wednesday night.

For more than 30 years, the rivals played in the same conference, first as part of the Campbell Conference and then as members of the renamed Western Conference starting in 1993-94. It was fitting that before Detroit headed to the East, the teams would meet in the conference semifinals, with the Blackhawks rallying from a 3-1 series deficit and capping the comeback with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7.

Second in the West, Chicago (32-8-11) has earned a point in 19 of 21 games. It's followed a 1-1-3 stretch with a 4-2 victory over NHL-leading Anaheim on Friday and a 3-2 shootout win over Boston in Sunday's Stanley Cup finals rematch.

"Our team plays better when (there are) huge games," forward Marian Hossa told the Blackhawks' official website. "We look forward to it."

The Blackhawks own a 21-9 goal advantage during their seven-game regular-season winning streak against the Red Wings (21-18-10), and they've earned at least one point in the last 10 such meetings.

Chicago has allowed five goals while winning four straight during a 9-0-1 regular-season stretch at Joe Louis Arena. However, four of those victories came in overtime or a shootout and another by one goal in regulation.

Hossa, who has five goals and two assists in his last five games, recorded one with three assists while the Blackhawks won the final three of last season's playoff matchup.

Teammate Patrick Kane has three assists in 10 games, though he scored the shootout winner against Boston. He has four goals and seven assists in his last 10 regular-season contests at Joe Louis.

Corey Crawford, who stopped 53 of 57 shots against the Ducks and Bruins, is 6-1-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average during the regular season at Detroit.

Jimmy Howard won't be in net for this one after suffering a knee injury in Monday's 4-1 loss to St. Louis that will keep him out at least a week. Slated to represent the United States at next month's Olympics, the injury is to the same knee that forced Howard to miss eight games in December.

"It's a big loss," backup goalie Petr Mrazek told the Red Wings' official website. "We have to think of the positive and play the same game."

Coach Mike Babcock says Jonas Gustavsson will start Wednesday in his first action since Dec. 28.

Howard's situation is another health setback in a season full of them for Detroit, which is likely to be without Pavel Datsyuk for an eighth straight game and Daniel Alfredsson a sixth consecutive contest. Johan Franzen has been out since mid-December with a concussion, though defenseman Jonathan Ericsson could return Wednesday after missing the last 10 with a rib injury.

Detroit has lost 13 of 19, and it's recorded three non-shootout goals and been shut out twice while dropping three of the last four.

"With the group we have, we've just got to work hard and out-compete the team across from us because we do have a lot of young guys filling in, but we can still get it done with this group," said forward Justin Abdelkader, who has been held without a point in six straight games.

Henrik Zetterberg has a goal with two assists in two games, but has managed one assist in his last seven regular-season and playoff home contests in this series.

Tagged: Blackhawks, Red Wings, Jimmy Howard

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