NHL Preview – Detroit Red Wings @ Chicago Blackhawks

NHL Preview – Detroit Red Wings @ Chicago Blackhawks

Detroit Red Wings @ Chicago Blackhawks

 K.O 12:30am GMT.

We have a match-up in Chicago tonight which features two of the original six NHL teams. The Detroit Red Wings make the short journey from Michigan to Illinois to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in a boiling pot of a top-ten tilt. This is an important game for both teams playoff wise and is a fantastic clash of styles.

The Red Wings haven’t been so awful on the road this season. They were really bad at the beginning of the season but they’ve really picked it up as of late. It might be the travel that bothers them, however that shouldn’t be a huge factor tonight as the journey from Detroit to Chicago isn’t too far. They’re doing the business this season, currently sitting tenth in the league, sixth in the East and third in the tricky Atlantic division. They’re 4 points behind Tampa Bay with four games in hand meaning there’s a lot of scope to surpass them soon. The squad is looking strong tonight with only Johan Franzen missing out because of concussion symptoms. They might have a slight offensive boost tonight as they’ve recalled the leading point scorer in the AHL, Teemu Pulkkinen, to the squad, and it looks like he’ll be on the top line. He has been phenomenal for the Grand Rapids in the AHL and he should definitely be able to pass some dimes or even get his name on the score sheet tonight. They roll with Jimmy Howard in net this evening who is 16-8-8 with a more than satisfying 2.11 GAA (third in the NHL) and .921 SV% this season. Jimmy has re-found his spark this season which has gone amiss in previous seasons. The Red Wings have an 8-0-2 record against Central division opposition, including a shootout loss to the formidable St. Louis Blues on the road.

The Blackhawks have been their usual selves this season, and their home rink, the United Centre, has been one of the most intimidating strongholds in the league for travelling teams, boasting an impressive 18-7-3 record there this season. Chicago are singing from a similar hymn sheet as the Red Wings, as they currently sit seventh in the league, fourth in the West, and third in the Central division. They’re usually a nailed-on winner of the Central, but this division has seen the emergence of so many teams this season including the league leading Nashville Predators, a surprise team like the Winnipeg Jets, and the usual fire that St. Louis, Dallas and Minnesota bring. Like the Red Wings, the squad is looking strong tonight, only missing Trevor Van Riemsdyk due to patella surgery.

The ever-intimidating offence is especially scary when Blackhawks veterans are firing, including the league points leader Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa who has been white hot recently after a slow start to the season. The likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya (one of the best defensive cores in the NHL) will be holding down to blueline; and Corey Crawford will be starting in net who has been playing great since his return from injury, with a 23-12-3 record, a 2.26 GAA and .922 SV%. Chicago’s success against the opposition’s divisional teams has been replicated from the Red Wings as well, as they currently have a 8-2-0 record against Atlantic opposition.

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One of the more interesting battles within this game will be Detroit’s power play as they lead the league this season with a large 26% conversion rate, taking on Chicago’s penalty kill which is also the highest in the league, killing off 87.9% of the man disadvantage. The Red Wings power play has been meteoric as of late, with 10 goals in 29 power plays, resulting in a massive 34.5% conversion rate. That being said, the Blackhawks have been just as good on the kill, allowing only three power play goals in their last 12 games, killing off 21 of the 24 opportunities opponents have had against them, resulting in a huge 87.5% average.

This is really quite an attractive game this evening which could go either way, yet the Red Wings have taken on some of the best the Central has to offer, and are yet to concede a loss in the 60 minute regulation period, which makes them look safe for the +1 goal advantage being offered. Although they aren’t spectacular on the road, this is a short journey for them, and I’m suspecting they’ll be high on confidence after beating the Hawks 4-1 earlier this season.

Danny.

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