Tonight is the fifth of eight games (bleh!) between these two Central Division teams this season. The Wings lead the season series 4-0, with three of those wins coming during the three-game mini-series from October 27th to November 1st (5-2
). The other win came on December 23rd, a 3-2
overtime decision. The teams will face off again tomorrow, in Chicago, at 7:00 ET.
Since the Olympic Break, the Wings have played only Pacific Division opponents and have gone 3-2 in the five games since returning to the States. They are coming off a home win over the Kings, a game with the misleading score of 7-3. It was a much more closely contested game than the score indicates but a goal explosion in the third period gave the Wings the victory.
The Wings will be joined in practice today by newly acquired defenseman Cory Cross. Cross will not be in the lineup tonight, however, but should be tomorrow night in Chicago, the Freep reports. To make room for Cross, the Wings sent rookie defenseman Brett Lebda down to Grand Rapids, where he will get playing time instead of sitting in a suite at JLA.
Manny Legace should get the start tonight, though I'd expect Babcock to go with Chris Osgood tomorrow night. Manny is playing well but I'd still like to see a couple one- or no-goal games by him before the playoffs. He won't very often get away with allowing three goals in the postseason.
The Hawks are 2-3 since the Break, having played an assortment of Central, Northwestern, and Pacific Division teams. In their first game back, they shut out Nashville 3-0 but they lost their next two games, 5-4 (SO) to Vancouver and 7-2 to Dallas. They won a Central Division lightweight battle on the 7th, beating Columbus 3-1 but fell 2-1 to Colorado on Thursday.
Chicago was a dealer once again this deadline. They traded center Tyler Arnasson to Ottawa for winger Brandon Bochenski after dealing center Jim Dowd to Colorado for a fourth-rounder. Dowd joined the Avs that day and played in their game against the Hawks, registering an assist against his former team.
They have used three different goalies in their last three games but will probably stick with Nikolai Khabibulin, who returned from a knee injury to play Thursday against the Avs after missing over a month of games.
Tonight will be a reminder of just how stupid the NHL's new scheduling system is. I think we've seen the Hawks enough already, don't you?