Although the sense of rivalry has diminished greatly since the Detroit Red Wings were moved to Eastern Conference, Wednesday night’s game between Detroit and the Chicago Blackhawks is set to be an excellent contest.
Despite the conference realignment, a sense of great anticipation remains whenever Detroit and Chicago step on the ice. That being said, this season has been a drastic change from the success of previous years for a Detroit team that continues to have to fight through injury.
Most recently, Detroit lost Jimmy Howard once again to the same knee injury that sidelined him earlier in the year. Detroit, however, will regain defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who is returning from a broken rib.
Thankfully for the Red Wings, the team seems to play better with backup Jonas Gustavsson in net. He allows only 2.39 goals per game, but has a lower save percentage than Howard. Gustavsson has an impressive 11-3-2 record, and can hopefully awaken the Detroit offense which ranks 22nd in the NHL in goals per game with 2.45.
For the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford will be in net once again. It will be his first start since being named the NHL’s third star of the week for his performances which seem to have lifted the Blackhawks out of their slight slump.
Antti Raanta has started only twice since returning the starting job to Crawford, despite a 12-3-1 record in his first 17 NHL starts. However, it appears Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is returning Crawford to his previous workhorse role in the hopes he regains the confidence and elite play that led the team to a Stanley Cup last season.
For the Blackhawks, who are the clear favorites in this matchup, the first period will likely decide whether this game is yet another classic or a blowout. Detroit has trailed first in 23 of their 49 games so far, but their depleted roster is still in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
However, Chicago is one of the best team’s at retaining leads, despite early season struggles. They rank third in wins when scoring first with 25, and have yet to lose a regulation game when scoring first. Detroit, meanwhile, ranks 26th in the league at wins while being outshot. If the Blackhawks are able execute early, it is unlikely Detroit will be able to put of much of a fight.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.
After Chicago plays the Red Wings they travel to Minnesota before returning home to play the Jets. For Blackhawks tickets against Winnipeg or any of their remaining home games click here.