The Red Wings have won 13 straight in the Motor City and can tie the franchise record of 14 consecutive home wins this afternoon against one of their oldest rivals. Detroit, which is 16-2-1 as the host this year, set the record during the 1964-65 season when the Red Wings and Blackhawks were among the NHL's Original Six.
Mike Babcock's Red Wings last lost at the Joe in a 4-1 setback against Calgary on Nov. 3 and the team extended their home streak with Thursday's shootout win over Phoenix. However, the Blackhawks have fared well in Detroit in recent years and today's matinee against Chicago could spell the end of the Red Wings' amazing streak.
This marks the third time in just over two weeks that the Blackhawks and Red Wings have met. The first two meetings this year between the clubs were in Chicago and the teams split those encounters. The Blackhawks posted a 3-2 regulation win on Dec. 30 before Detroit won by the same score in overtime on Jan. 8.
Overall, Chicago has taken five of seven in this series and five straight in Motown.
The Blackhawks and Red Wings also enter this afternoon's battle with an eye on the top spot in the division. Chicago is currently leading the Central with 57 points, but St. Louis is just one point back in second and Detroit is third with 55. The Blues will play later this evening in a home test against Minnesota.
The Red Wings enter today's showdown with four wins in their last six contests. Detroit's most recent contest ended in a shootout, as Henrik Zetterberg scored in the decisive segment to lift the Red Wings to a 3-2 decision over the Coyotes in the opener of a three-game homestand.
"We pay a lot more attention to detail when we're out there," said Howard. "We keep it simple and try not to give up too many odd-man rushes. Just sticking to the game plan and that's a big reason we've been so successful at home."
In the fourth round of the shootout, Zetterberg skated in on net and slowed down to fake to the backhand. As he was going to the left of Mike Smith, he reached out with his right hand on the stick and tapped the puck in. Howard then stopped Lauri Korpikoski to give the Red Wings the victory.
Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen each had a goal, while Datsyuk added an assist to give him points in 22 of his last 26 games. Datsyuk is leading the Red Wings this season with 31 assists and 44 points.
Chicago opened January on an 0-3-1 slide, but Joel Quenneville's club has rebounded with consecutive 5-2 victories over Columbus and Minnesota. The Blackhawks downed the Blue Jackets on Tuesday and Dave Bolland scored a pair of goals to lift Chicago to Thursday's victory over the Wild. Chicago, which ended a four-game homestand in its latest game, used a three-goal second period to best Minnesota.
"There are times you have bumps in the road, but right now it feels like we're coming back," Bolland said.
Chicago is just 10-8-1 on the road compared to a 16-5-4 record on home ice.
In other news, the Blackhawks will not have enforcer Dan Carcillo for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Carcillo, who had two goals, nine assists and 82 penalty minutes in 28 games this year, injured his leg on an illegal hit against Edmonton's Tom Gilbert on Jan 2. Carcillo was given a seven-game suspension for the check.