CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks will face off against an old division rival when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday at the United Center.
The teams have met 733 times during the regular season and 81 times during the playoffs since their first game in 1926. But a divisional realignment before the 2013-14 season sent the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference while the Blackhawks remained in the Western Conference, which reduced the rivalry to a fraction of what it once represented.
Still, the stakes are high as Chicago (22-16-6) welcomes the Red Wings to its building for the only time this season. The Blackhawks are part of a crowded field of playoff contenders and hope to pick up two more points before the start of this week’s five-day break between games.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville will turn to Jeff Glass, a 32-year-old rookie, to start in goal. Glass toiled for years in the minor leagues and Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, but he has made the most of an opportunity to replace injured goaltender Corey Crawford. In five starts, Glass is 3-1-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
“I’m just trying to prove myself every single day,” Glass told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s really not about me anymore. It’s about the team and getting the points. I really do mean that.”
Detroit (17-18-7) is looking for a bounce-back performance after dropping its past two games. The Red Wings will play on short rest after losing 4-1 on the road to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill will have to adjust his line combinations because of lower-body injuries to Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. Both players were hurt in Saturday’s game and have been ruled out against the Blackhawks.
Goaltender Petr Mrazek could make the start for Detroit after Jimmy Howard opened the back-to-back set on Saturday. Mrazek has struggled (3-5-1, 3.78 GAA, .885 save percentage) in 12 appearances this season. He also has fared poorly during his career against the Blackhawks (0-2-1, 5.20 GAA, .864 save percentage).
Those statistics could prompt Detroit to start Howard for the second day in a row. Howard is 14-13-6 with a 2.68 GAA and .915 save percentage in 35 games this season. In 22 career appearances against Chicago, the Syracuse, N.Y., native is 7-8-5 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 save percentage.
The Blackhawks hope for a continued boost from Anthony Duclair, who notched an assist in his team debut on Friday against the Winnipeg Jets. Duclair was acquired earlier this week from the Arizona Coyotes as part of a trade that sent Richard Panik to the desert.
Meanwhile, the short-handed Red Wings could lean more heavily on forwards such as Nyquist and Anthony Mantha. Both players are tied for the team lead with 14 goals apiece.
The Red Wings need to improve in the second half of the season to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The last time Detroit missed out on the playoffs in consecutive seasons was from 1978-79 to 1982-83.
“We are optimistic in here,” Nyquist told the Detroit Free Press. “We all think we are a better team (at) this point than we were last year although the lineup looks very similar. We’ve made strides as a team.”