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NHL on NBCSN: Detroit pumped to face Chicago

Mar 16, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser (65) steals the puck from Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) AP

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Red Wings and Blackhawks were battling for supremacy in the Central Division. Now the two aren’t even in the same conference and while Chicago remains one of the best teams in the league, Detroit is a squad in transition, trying to rebuild while still somehow extending the 22-season playoff appearance streak.

That might not be such a daunting task for the Red Wings if they were anywhere close to 100 percent, but they’re not. They’re missing their two best forwards in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

By comparison, Chicago only had one significant void in its lineup due to the absence of Marian Hossa (upper body) and it looks like even he’s probable for tonight’s game, per NHL.com. If he returns, Chicago will enter the game with six players that have recorded over 40 points in 2013-14. Detroit will start the contest with none.

Even with the odds so heavily stacked against them, a game against the Blackhawks might do Detroit some good.

“We’re always fired up to play them,” Gustav Nyquist told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a good rivalry.

“You know they’re a great team, they’ve been good for a few years now, so it’s going to be a challenge but we’re looking forward to coming into their building, it’s a fun building to play in.”

While the Red Wings are trying to claw their way into the playoffs, this game isn’t devoid of meaning for the Blackhawks. It’s a given that they’ll advance to the postseason, but they still have a legitimate shot at second place in the Central Division. The only problem is they’re going through a bit of a slump after dropping their last two games and five of their last eight.

“The last couple of (losses) were definitely winnable hockey games. Those are the games that bother us, me more than anybody. We didn’t play the right way to give us a chance to win,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. Forward Patrick Sharp added that they’ve been falling victim to preventable mistakes.

Just as this match between old rivals might spark Detroit, this could be what Chicago needs to get back on track. One thing is a safe bet: these two points will be hotly contested.

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