Jan 14, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT
Say what you will about the rivalry between the Red Wings and Blackhawks, but these two always bring the best out of each other. When they square off this afternoon in Detroit (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC), they’ll show why the race to win the Central Division might be the best in the NHL.
When you take a look at the standings and see the Wings and Hawks in a knockdown, drag-out battle for the division lead with the Blues, you see what makes it special. Of course, both teams come into today’s game with some lingering worries.
Chicago is dealing with the season-ending injury to Dan Carcillo as well as nagging injuries to Patrick Sharp (wrist), Marcus Kruger (concussion), and Steve Montador. While Kruger and Montador are feeling better, Sharp is still out. Chicago’s captain Jonathan Toews, however, isn’t making excuses for their recent struggles. Chicago has lost four of its last six, but is coming off two wins in a row over Columbus and Minnesota.
Detroit has been alternating wins and losses recently and that inconsistency makes coach Mike Babcock twitch. Such is life in a time of parity. That said, the Wings have gotten huge performances out of Pavel Datsyuk (even in spite of a mystery injury that kept him out against the Islanders) and Henrik Zetterberg, who dazzled with a Peter Forsberg-like shootout goal against Phoenix.
Making it all work out for the Wings is goalie Jimmy Howard who is having his best season of his career. His name is near the top of all the statistical categories and he was named to his first All-Star Game just this week.
A regulation win today for Detroit puts them back on top of the Central Division while Chicago can put a little breathing room between themselves and the Blues and Wings with a win. While the two sides stack up evenly today, it’s a divisional battle that won’t be going away anytime soon.
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