Red Wings-Blackhawks Preview

Thanks to some inspired play from AHL callup Joey MacDonald, the

Detroit Red Wings hardly missed a beat while All-Star goaltender

Jimmy Howard healed from a broken finger.

With Howard expected to return to the net, the surging Red Wings

will try to collect a season high-tying seventh consecutive win

Tuesday night without leading scorer Pavel Datsyuk when they visit

the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Detroit appeared to suffer a major blow when Howard fractured

his right index finger during a 4-3 shootout win in Vancouver on

Feb. 2, but after suffering consecutive defeats for the first time

in 6 1/2 weeks, the Red Wings quickly rebounded with MacDonald’s


The journeyman, who was recalled from Grand Rapids on Feb. 3,

led Detroit on a sweep of a six-game homestand and to an NHL-record

23rd consecutive victory at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, 3-2 over San


“Let’s be honest, if things weren’t going well, (Howard) would

have been in two or three games ago,” coach Mike Babcock said

following MacDonald’s 31-save effort. “Why would we when we had

some time for him to get better? So it worked out really well.”

Even with that gaudy streak, the Red Wings (41-17-2) remain only

five points ahead of St. Louis in the Central Division and two in

front of Vancouver in the Western Conference. That’s in part

because of a lackluster 15-15-1 road record, and now Detroit will

be without Datsyuk for two weeks after he had arthroscopic surgery

Tuesday to remove fragments from his right knee.

Datsyuk leads the Red Wings with 59 points.

Detroit will try to move on against a Blackhawks team that has

provided three very competitive matchups this season. The Red Wings

fell 3-2 at the United Center on Dec. 30 but recorded a pair of 3-2

overtime victories – one in Chicago on Jan. 8 and another in

Detroit on Jan. 14.

The Blackhawks might be ready to give the Red Wings another

challenge after winning three in row following an 0-8-1 skid. After

routing Columbus 6-1 on Saturday, Chicago (32-21-7) beat St. Louis

3-1 in its return from a season-high, nine-game trip the next


The Blackhawks, winners in six of seven at home, got some luck

that had been missing from some of their more recent games when

Dave Bolland’s pass through the crease in the third period went off

Blues captain David Backes’ stick and into the net for the go-ahead


“We learned a lot in that losing streak and brought those

lessons to this game,” defenseman Duncan Keith said. “We were able

to play a patient game and win it.”

Marian Hossa added an empty-netter for his third goal in four

contests following a six-game point drought. The winger has three

goals and nine assists during a nine-game point streak against his

former team.

Howard, whose 32 wins are tied for the NHL lead, will try to

stop that run with help from some extra padding in his blocker to

protect his finger and a modified stick that will be easier to


Even when fully healthy, Howard hasn’t appeared overly

comfortable against Chicago during his career with a 4-5-1 record

and a 3.06 goals-against average in 10 matchups. He has posted a

2.44 GAA while splitting two this season, and he’s 3-2-0 with a

2.99 GAA in five career games at the United Center.

The Blackhawks might start Corey Crawford, who has allowed a

combined four goals over his last three games after giving up 19

over his previous five. Crawford is 5-2-2 with a 2.20 GAA in nine

career games against Detroit.

Along with Howard, the Red Wings could get veteran forward Danny

Cleary back from an injured left knee Tuesday. Cleary has two goals

and an assist over his last three games in Chicago.

The Blackhawks will be without leading goal scorer Jonathan

Toews due to an upper-body injury.