We're almost there. Only 7 games to go until the end of the regular season and the quest for Cuppy Cuppy Cuppy begins. But before the Wings get to the playoffs, the Blackhawks stand in the way...not once...not twice...but three times.
There's no doubt the NHL schedule-makers were hoping for a tight Central Division race between these two teams that would come down to the final weeks. Thus, the Wings square off with the 'Hawks tonight and the final two regular season games as well.
Chicago is coming off a loss at home to Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks and currently sit in the 8th spot in the Western Conference. Depending on how the Ducks do against the Avs tonight, the 'Hawks could end up in the 7th spot with a win or find themselves further behind the pack and still in the final playoff spot.
Detroit on the other hand is coming off a 4-2 win against another original six rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs. A win is a win, but everyone and their mother (hi mom!) is concerned about Jimmy Howard's shoulder. Word on the street is that he is fine and everything will be okay, but you can't help to be worried a bit still. Jimmy will miss tonight's game and possibly more. For now, the Wings will rely on everyone's favorite tag team, The Mac Attack, for the next game or so. Joey MacDonald will get the start in net and Thomas McCollum has been recalled from Toledo to chart faceoffs.
Second City Hockey is your Blackhawks' SBNation blog.
Good news about the Mule after the jump.
The Expected Line-up
Jiri Hudler -- Henrik Zetterberg -- Danny Cleary
Mike Modano -- Valtteri Filppula -- Tomas Holmstrom
Johan Franzen -- Justin Abdelkader -- Todd Bertuzzi
Kris Draper / Drew Miller -- Darren Helm -- Patrick Eaves
Nicklas Lidstrom -- Brad Stuart
Jonathan Ericsson -- Niklas Kronwall
Ruslan Salei / Jakub Kindl -- Brian Rafalski
Joey MacDonald (starting)
Scratches: Draper/Miller, Salei/Kindl
Injuries: Pavel Datsyuk (lower body)
LTIR: Chris Osgood (groin)
The Mule just might be back tonight. Franzen pronounced himself ready to go for tonight's game, but Mike Babcock said the team would see how things go Monday before deciding if he'll play. As previously mentioned, JoeyMac gets the start and TimmyMac is his back-up for the evening. It appears that Drapes or Miller will be hanging out with Rusty or Kindl in the press box. I personally like the idea of the Franzen-Abdelkader-Bertuzzi line. Two big wings and a center who'll hit whomever gets in his way. Hopefully we'll get the Mule that will go into the traffic and create some offense as Bert goes to the net and Abby just annoys the hell out of the defense. Additional good news in the form of a returning Pav. He should be back Wednesday against St. Louis or Saturday in Nashville.
|DET||HOW THEY MATCH UP||CHI|
|3.17 (2nd)||GOALS PER GAME||3.16 (3rd)|
|2.8 (17th)||GOALS AGAINST PER GAME||2.7 (13th)|
|22.6% (4th)||POWER PLAY %||23.9% (2nd)|
|83.3% (12th)||PENALTY KILL %||79.2% (25th)|
|Franzen (27 goals)||GOAL LEADER||Patrick Sharp (34 goals)|
|Zetterberg (75 points)||POINTS LEADER||Johnathan Toews (74 points)|
- The Wings are 360-260-84-8 (W-L-T-OTL) all time against the Blackhawks. Don't expect the little brother to catch Detroit anytime soon.
- Detroit is 1-2-0 against Chicago this season. They ruined the 'Hawks banner raising night with a 3-2 win in Windy City, but have lost the last two contests by 4-1 scores.
- Chicago has scored 10 goals against the Wings this season. 4 of those 10 goals have been scored by Tomas Kopecky. Unacceptable.
- The Blackhawks' leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp is expected to be out.
- I imagine Corey Crawford will get the start for the 'Hawks tonight. He has a solid 29-15-5 record this season with a 2.27 GAA and .918 save %. He's only played 3 games against Detroit in his career and has a 2-1-0 record, 1.34 GAA, and .965 save % to show for it.
- Joey MacDonald is 5-4-2 this season with a 2.05 GAA and .928 save %. Not bad numbers for a back up. He's 3-1 in his last 4 starts, which includes a 2-0 shutout of the Blue Jackets.
- Food for Thought: Chicago is a potential first round match-up in the playoffs. Obviously with the way the West is this season there won't be an easy first round opponent. Are the Blackhawks a team you would want to see in round one? Would you rather see them play Vancouver? Would you rather play Anaheim? Nashville? Calgary? Dallas?
Prediction: Wings win 3-1 and the Blackhawks fall father behind the Ducks and the 7th seed. Nicklas Lidstrom is your player of the game. Joey MacDonald has solid outing and Hudler remains Happy.