DETROIT – Though it hasn’t always been easy, the Chicago Blackhawks are finding ways to win while keeping their season-opening point streak intact.
The visiting Blackhawks expect another serious challenge when they look for a ninth straight victory by continuing their recent success against the surging archrival Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
While Chicago (18-0-3) is 21-0-6 since losing 6-1 at home to Nashville on March 25, it’s often had to work hard to maintain its record-setting start without a regulation loss in 2013. One night after rolling to a 3-0 win at St. Louis, the Blackhawks overcame a pair of one-goal deficits and a blown third-period lead before Brent Seabrook’s goal gave them a 4-3 overtime win over lowly Columbus on Friday.
“We were down early in this game,” said forward Bryan Bickell, who has a goal and two assists in four games. “It shows the character in this room to come back. It’s been fun. We’re just having a blast right now.”
Chicago’s enjoyment has come from a confidence that continues to grow while believing it can prevail no matter how challenging the situation. The Blackhawks, who average 3.2 goals and yield 1.9, are 11-0-3 in one-goal games.
“You get that swagger and confidence when you’re on a streak like this,” said forward Viktor Stalberg, who has three goals with an assist in five games. “You have confidence you’ll find a way to get it done.”
With that attitude in tow, the Blackhawks face their biggest rival looking to win nine straight for the first time since Dec. 7-28, 2008. Chicago is 13-0-4 on the road since losing 5-1 at St. Louis on March 6, and in the midst of a 7-0-1 stretch at Detroit.
Chicago has won four straight and nine of 13 overall against the Red Wings (10-8-3), but the last eight have been decided by a goal. Defenseman Nick Leddy scored 2:45 into overtime for a 2-1 home win over Detroit on Jan. 27.
Corey Crawford is among the NHL leaders at 9-0-3 with a 1.46 goals-against average, and could start for the Blackhawks after playing one period Thursday before leaving with an upper-body injury. He was between the pipes in this season’s first meeting, and is 4-0-1 with a 1.94 GAA at Joe Louis Arena the last two seasons.
Jimmy Howard will be back in the Detroit net after Jonas Gustavsson made 25 saves in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win at San Jose. Rookie Damien Brunner had the lone shootout goal to lead the Red Wings to their third win in four games following an 0-3-2 stretch.
“This is the best our team has looked all year, not necessarily the way we’ve played, the way we’ve looked,” coach Mike Babcock said after his team improved to 4-4-3 in one-goal games.
The Red Wings have allowed 1.5 goals in the last four after yielding 3.8 in the previous five.
They prevailed Thursday despite failing on two power-play chances to fall to 0 for 33 on the road. Detroit is 3 for 23 with the man advantage in the last eight versus Chicago at Joe Louis Arena, but ranks among the NHL leaders converting 24.6 percent of those opportunities at home this season. The Red Wings are 4 of 7 in the last two at there.
The Blackhawks are killing 94.7 percent of their penalties on the road.
Johan Franzen, who scored Detroit’s goal at Chicago, does not have a point during a five-game stretch that was interrupted when he missed seven with a hip flexor.
Howard is 0-1-2 in his last four starts against the Blackhawks, but has a 2.04 GAA.
Chicago center Dave Bolland could miss a fifth straight game reportedly with a concussion.
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