Blackhawks Season Series vs Red Wings Begins Tonight

It's hard to believe that halfway through the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are just now meeting for the first of six times tonight when the Hawks host the Wings at the United Center.

Over the last ten games, statistically speaking, the Blackhawks and Red Wings share virtually identical stats all around. Both teams have played very well of late. Chicago sports a 7-2-1 record in their last ten, while Detroit shares similar success with a 7-3 record through ten games. Chicago is tied with Vancouver for the NHL lead in the standings with 50 points, while Detroit sits not far behind Chicago with 47.

Perhaps the most jarring statistic regarding the Detroit Red Wings' play this season has been their outstanding success on home ice and their less than adequate play on the road. Detroit holds the best home record in the Western Conference at 14-2-1, while their play on the road is a measly 9-10-0 by comparison. This is surely the most significant difference in statistics between the two clubs, but of course, guarantees no end results.

With only a 2-4 record against the Blackhawks last season, Detroit will look to right the ship this season against their division rivals tonight. Pavel Datsyuk is once again having a good season and has five points in his last five games. Surprisingly, after scoring 80 points in 80 games last season, Henrik Zetterberg has a mediocre 25 points in 36 games so far this season. Of course, Nicklas Lidstrom, on the other hand, is having a "Nicklas Lidstrom" type season, with 23 points in 36 games thus far and a plus 18.

Despite their poor road record, look for Detroit to come out hard on Chicago's ice to grab two points in order to bring them within one point of first place in their division and the league lead.

The Chicago Blackhawks are riding the hot play of both goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, though the former as of most recently. Crawford has been stellar in his last three games, despite dropping a 2-0 decision to Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Crawford will get the start once again tonight, as he played well against Detroit last season, going 4-1. The good news for Chicago seems to be that when the defense has experienced breakdowns against opponents, both Crawford and Emery have exuded the confidence to bail out their team when necessary, something incredibly valuable for any potential Stanley Cup contender.

Patrick Kane moves back to Center on the second line in lieu of Marcus Kruger's recent injury woes, and AHL call-up power forward Jimmy Hayes will get to play to fill in the bottom six for Chicago. Expect to see Dan Carcillo join team-scoring leader Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews on the top line, while Kane will have Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp on his flanks.

The Blackhawks look to get another win on home ice to reclaim the league lead in the  overall standings and hope to create a gap between themselves and Vancouver. Regardless of how many more starting players Detroit will have out of the lineup to injury tonight, Chicago will have to come out hard and focused to keep points between their division rivals.

Keep An Eye Out For -

Corey Crawford: He's hot, folks. He's 2-1 in his last three games and has a .959 save percentage during that time. If Crawford continues to come up big for Chicago tonight, he will ultimately give his team the upper hand, provided they can provide some goal support after being shutout by Los Angeles.

Marian Hossa: He leads Chicago in scoring with 40 points in 36 games and is a plus 22. The Hawks will need their leading scorer more than ever tonight against a strong defensive Detroit squad.

Patrick Kane: Will his return to Center create more or less offense for his club?

Jimmy Howard: The Detroit goalie has also had a stellar season this year and has been one of the league's best. He holds an impressive 22-8-1 record along with a 1.95 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Pavel Datsyuk: He's effective at pretty much every inch of the ice and is the "Jonathan Toews" of Detroit (as close as anyone can attempt to be, anyway). Chicago's defense will need to contain him in order to be successful tonight.

Injuries -

Chicago will be without Marcus Kruger tonight. Jimmy Hayes has been called up as the Hawks roster has shifted around. Steve Montador has missed a pair of practices, but these have been labeled "maintenance days," so expect him to play.

Detroit will be missing Jan Mursak, Patrick Eaves, Chris Conner, Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom from their lineup. 

Tonight's game will be televised on FS-D+ and on CSN-Chicago at 7:30 pm CT.

Follow me on Twitter (@MCBHawks) and be sure to follow TCL Blackhawks on Twitter (@TCLBlackhawks) for updates on Chicago Blackhawks game and roster info.