Published March 31, 2013
| Sports Network
Though their lead atop the Western Conference may be shrinking, the Chicago Blackhawks still hold a commanding advantage for first place in the Central Division.
The Blackhawks try to extend that edge on Sunday afternoon as they go for a sixth straight victory over the rival Detroit Red Wings.
Chicago has lost three of its past four games, with two of those setbacks coming against the Anaheim Ducks, who now trail the Blackhawks by just three points for the top seed in the conference after sweeping the three-game season series.
The Blackhawks hosted the Ducks on Friday and lost a 2-1 decision. Patrick Kane tied the game early in the third with his 18th goal of the season, but Anaheim got the winner past Ray Emery with 2:08 to play when Sheldon Souray's shot from the point deflected off a 'Hawk player and in.
Emery made 22 saves, but still lost for the first time in 16 games this season (12-1-0).
"We battled back and tied the game, but those last couple of minutes we gave up a goal on a funny bounce and those things happen," said Emery. "It's one of those things we have to be mindful at the end of the game."
Forward Patrick Sharp missed his ninth game in a row due to a left shoulder injury, while winger Marian Hossa sat out his fourth straight because of an upper body injury. Both did return to practice on Thursday, but won't play today as they did not make the trip to Detroit.
That leaves Chicago again without two of its top scoring threats as it tries to increase a 14-point edge over second-place Detroit in the division.
The Blackhawks have taken the first two of four meetings this season and five straight overall. The last three wins of that streak have all gone past regulation.
Chicago is also 8-0-1 in its last nine at Detroit, including a 2-1 shootout win on March 3. Kane scored the game-tying goal with 2:02 to play in regulation before supplying the winner in the shootout.
The Red Wings hope to end their slide versus the 'Hawks and avoid a second straight loss overall after dropping a 2-0 decision to the hosting San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
Jimmy Howard gave up both goals on 24 shots, while the Sharks' Antti Niemi stopped all 27 pucks fired his way.
Detroit had a three-game winning streak halted and had won five of its previous six.
"We did a lot of good things tonight," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "There wasn't a lot to choose between the teams, we just had a tough break."
Detroit lost the finale of a four-game swing and sits seventh overall in the West, one point behind the Sharks and two back of the fifth-place Los Angeles Kings. However, the Red Wings also hold just a four-point edge over four teams tied for ninth place.
The Red Wings added 23-year-old defenseman Dan DeKeyser to the mix on Friday, signing the college free agent to a two-year contract. Several teams had interest in the 6-foot-3 blueliner after he wrapped up his third season at Western Michigan, where he had 17 points in 42 games this season while logging 54 blocked shots.
DeKeyser practiced with the Red Wings on Saturday, but is not expected to play today or Monday versus the Colorado Avalanche. His signing also came on the same day that Detroit assigned defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo to the AHL for a conditioning stint. He hasn't played since Jan. 21 due to a shoulder injury.
With the added depth, the Red Wings dealt veteran defenseman Kent Huskins to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday for a conditional 2014 draft pick. The 33- year-old did not record a point in 11 games this season.
Forward Johan Franzen suffered a lower body injury versus the Sharks and is day-to-day, but could still play in this game. Fellow forward Mikael Samuelsson could also skate in just his fourth game of the season and first since Feb. 17 because of a fractured finger.