CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to clinch their best start in franchise history in front of their home fans. If that’s not enough to stoke excitement at the United Center, the team will also be facing its arch-rival for the first time this season.
Chicago will try to win its sixth in a row Sunday night by adding to its recent success against the Detroit Red Wings.
With a 3-2 win Saturday in Columbus, the current Blackhawks team joined the 1971-72 squad as the only ones to open a season with five consecutive victories. Jonathan Toews scored a key goal in the third period and Patrick Kane had a pair of assists to extend his season-opening point streak.
“That was one of those games where maybe we didn’t play our best hockey like we’ve seen in the last (four) games,” Toews said, “but as a team it doesn’t matter who goes out there, you’ve got to find a way to win.”
The Blackhawks (5-0-0) will try to make history in only their second home game this season, before they head out on a six-game road trip. They’re 2-0-1 in their last three home games against Detroit and 8-1-2 in the last 11 meetings overall, including three straight victories to close last season’s series.
The Red Wings (2-2-0) have experienced an uneven start following the retirements of Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom, but they’re coming off a 5-3 win over Minnesota on Friday. Todd Bertuzzi had two goals in his season debut after dealing with an illness and rookie Damien Brunner scored his second in as many games.
Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula had three points apiece, with Brunner and Datsyuk scoring the team’s first two power-play goals of the season. The Red Wings were 0 for 15 with the man advantage through their first three games.
They might struggle again Sunday considering the Blackhawks are 16 for 17 on the penalty kill.
“They’re going to be a tough test for us, for sure,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s going to be imperative that we really stay together in a five-man unit, forecheck well, play defense well and be patient.
“We need to get off to a good start, be strong in the face-off circle and be ready to compete.”
The Red Wings are missing Mikael Samuelsson, Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo, but they may get defenseman Jonathan Ericsson back from a hip injury Sunday.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, meanwhile, said he might give goaltender Corey Crawford his second start in as many nights.
Crawford is 7-2-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average in 11 career games against Detroit, although Ray Emery has also performed well versus the Red Wings, going 3-0-0 with a 1.85 GAA in four all-time matchups. Three of those came with Ottawa, but he helped the Blackhawks to a 2-1 victory in Detroit on March 4.
Whoever starts, Patrick Sharp will try to help by adding to his six goals and nine assists in his last 15 games against Detroit.
Datsyuk has three goals and two assists in his last five match-ups with Chicago and six points in his past three games overall. The Red Wings, though, have tallied two goals or fewer eight times in their last 11 games against the Blackhawks, losing all eight of those games.
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