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Red Wings-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

Neither Chicago nor Detroit has time to get nostalgic over a long-standing rivalry that has been trimmed due to the Red Wings' shift to the Eastern Conference prior to this season.

The Blackhawks have slipped in the West standings due to their current slump, while Detroit is fighting to extend its playoff streak to 24 seasons heading into its only visit to Chicago on Sunday night.

The Original Six rivals made the most of their last year as division and conference foes in last season's West semifinals, as Chicago rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and won Game 7 on Brent Seabrook's overtime goal en route to its second Stanley Cup title in four years.

That marked the last time Detroit played at the United Center. The usual six meetings in a full regular season have been cut to a home-and-home because of the NHL's realignment.

The Red Wings won the first matchup 5-4 in a shootout Jan. 22, as captain Henrik Zetterberg had three assists. Zetterberg, though, might not play again this season after having back surgery during the Olympics - just one of many injuries plaguing Detroit (30-23-13) as it battles for one of the East's final playoff spots.

Pavel Datsyuk is likely to miss another week and a half due to a knee injury, and forward Darren Helm has missed the last the five games with a concussion. Coach Mike Babcock hopes Helm will return Tuesday against Toronto.

The Red Wings, slightly outside the East playoff picture, had lost four of five prior to Friday's 2-1 shootout win over Edmonton. Jimmy Howard made 21 saves and stopped all three attempts in the tiebreaker.

"Huge (win)," Babcock said. "Howie, obviously, in the shootout, bailing us out was a real positive for us. It gives us some confidence."

Riley Sheahan scored his fifth goal in the third period. After playing only one game in each of the previous two seasons, the 22-year-old forward has appeared in 26 contests as Detroit tries to make do without some key players.

"I thought Riley Sheahan was a very good player for us (Friday). Very, very good," Babcock said. "He just seems to me to get better and better all the time. He should have a lot of confidence."

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, haven't had many positives lately. They've gone 3-4-0 since the Olympic break, including back-to-back 3-2 losses to Colorado on Wednesday and Nashville on Friday.

Captain Jonathan Toews scored against the Predators and has seven goals and an assist over his last six, but Patrick Sharp has scored just once in his last 11.

Chicago (38-15-14) has slipped to third in the Central Division and fifth in the West, one point behind the Avalanche.

"We're putting ourselves in tough situations by not starting well and just getting away from our team game," Toews said Friday after his team fell behind 2-0 for the second straight game. "We know we need better right now. We need to get out of this kind of trend that we're in."

The Blackhawks lead the NHL with 222 non-shootout goals, but they've scored two or fewer in seven of nine. Corey Crawford made 26 saves Friday and is 6-5-1 with a 1.76 goals against average over his last 12 starts.

Help could be on the way against Detroit, as former Red Wing Marian Hossa hopes to play after sitting out the last five games with an upper-body injury.

"(Saturday) was a good practice, good drills," Hossa said. "It was a great test for me and I felt pretty good."

Crawford had won six straight regular-season starts with a 1.27 GAA against Detroit prior to the loss in January. Howard is winless with a 2.33 GAA in his last seven non-playoff outings versus Chicago.

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