Notes: Blackhawks make lone trip to The Joe

The Red Wings and Blackhawks have played the most games against each other in NHL history (tonight's tilt is their 728th meeting).

Dennis Wierzbicki

DETROIT — For years it seemed that the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks were playing each other every other week, but that’s not the case anymore.

With Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference last year, tonight’s contest between these two long time rivals — who have played the most games against each other in NHL history (tonight’s tilt is their 728th meeting) — will be the Hawks’ only appearance in Detroit this season.

"It’s different. We’re in the Eastern Conference," said Justin Abdelkader. "It’ll always be a rival. Unfortunately we’re not in the same division, so we don’t see those guys as much.

"I think with past history, two Original Six franchises, it’s always considered a rivalry."

Abdelkader pointed out that since he’s been with the Wings, Chicago has been a very good team, which has lead to some memorable regular season and playoff games.

"They always seem to be really good games. It’s been real exciting to play these guys."

Like Abdelkader, Chicago’s Bryan Bickellalways looks forward to matching up against the Wings.

"Playing Detroit is still pretty special," Bickell said. "We only play them twice instead of like eight times in the seasons we had before. It just makes it more passionate.

"And playing at Joe Louis, this could be one of the last couple of times we’ll be playing here. It’s a special rink. It’s been around a long time."

AFTER FOUR DAYS OFF, WINGS NEED EARLY PUSH

It seems like an eternity since the Wings played a hockey game (last Sunday against Tampa Bay), but after a four day respite, Detroit realizes that they’ll need the jump early against the relentless Blackhawks.

"We definitely got to get going right away. We know that Chicago is a team that starts quick and they play hard," said Wings forward Drew Miller. "We want to have a good start and establish our game right away.

"They like to play with speed and we got to cut their big guys off and limit that."

Abdelkader agrees with his fellow Michigan State alum, that the Wings will need to start on time.

"Any time you have four days off it’s a good thing, we’re not complaining about it, but at the same time you got to make sure you get off to a good start, make sure you get your legs under you right away," Abdelkader said. "They’re a fast-starting team. We got to make sure we match that and come out skating right away."

WEISS HEALTHY, WAITING

Stephen Weiss has been working his tail off to get back into the Detroit lineup. Weiss is still on IR (groin), but has practiced with the Wings and says he’s close to being ready to start playing again.

"I want to play games. To be honest, I’m sick of practicing," Weiss said. "But at the same time, you’ve got to be smart about it. I’ve only had three practices and been off for quite a long time.

"So you want to make sure you’re conditioning is up to par and you’re not just out there to be out there.

"After a few more practices and some extra skating, that should make a big difference; then I can go out and play and be ready to go."

Weiss is unsure what he’s next step will be as he tries to regain his spot in Detroit’s lineup.

"I’m really just focused on this weekend here and then I’ll talk to whoever I need to talk to and see if I’m going to Columbus ( the Wings play the Blue Jackets, Tuesday) or if I’ll just go to GR (Grand Rapids) and practice there," Weiss said.

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