Blackhawks-Red Wings Preview
Residing in different conferences, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings don't see much of each other these days.
They'll quickly get reacquainted while completing their entire season series this week.
In the first of two matchups over five days, the Red Wings try for a fourth straight win Wednesday night against the visiting Blackhawks.
Since moving to the Eastern Conference in 2013-14, Detroit (32-20-11) improved to 3-1-0 against its longtime Original Six archrival by taking both matchups last season. Riding a five-game point streak and looking to win four in a row for the second time this season, the Red Wings appear primed for the latest installment before visiting Chicago on Sunday.
"They're a team that's a measuring stick throughout the league with the success they've had in the past several years," goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It's going to be another tall task."
While the Blackhawks (39-20-5) play Boston on Thursday, this is a home-and-home set for Detroit. On Monday, the Red Wings faced the other team currently in the mix for the top spot in the West and pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory at Dallas. Rookie Andreas Athanasiou scored twice and Pavel Datsyuk had the winner to snap Detroit's 0-for-20 power-play drought.
The Red Wings are in the mix for one of the top three Atlantic Division playoff spots, very much within striking distance of the top two spots.
"The points are critical," coach Jeff Blashill said. "We gotta keep doing everything we can to get as many points as we can."
Though Howard made 39 saves Monday to record his first win since Dec. 3, the Red Wings need Petr Mrazek healthy and effective again. Detroit's No. 1 netminder, 3-1-1 in his last five starts despite posting a 3.24 goals-against average, should be ready to start this contest.
"We were precautionary (Monday)," Blashill said. "We wanted to make sure he didn't injure it any more. It would be day to day so we'll know more for sure on Wednesday but we expect him ready to play."
Mrazek has never faced the Blackhawks, who won for the third time in eight games, 3-2 over NHL-leading Washington on Sunday. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each scored and newly-acquired forward Andrew Ladd had an assist in his return to Chicago.
Tomas Fleischmann, who came over along with Dale Weise from Montreal on Friday, played 13 minutes and did not record a point.
"It can be energizing for sure, some fresh faces," goaltender Corey Crawford said. "With the new guys in the lineup it felt like the chemistry was building throughout the game. ... We just want to build off that."
It's uncertain if Weise will make his Chicago debut in this contest as he continues to deal with visa issues in Canada. In a minor deal Monday, the Blackhawks also acquired light-scoring veteran forward Tim Jackman and a draft pick from Anaheim.
Crawford, who made 28 saves Sunday to match a career high with 33 wins, has yielded seven goals while losing his last two at Detroit.
The Blackhawks have also allowed their last eight opponents to going 10 of 24 on the power play.
Kane recorded 12 of his league-leading 85 points - three shy of his career best - in 11 games last month.
Toews has five points in four road contests and four in his last three at Detroit, including the playoffs.
Tomas Tatar has four goals in five games against Chicago.