DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings begin life without Jimmy Howard for the second time this season when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
The United States Olympian re-injured his left knee midway through the second period of Monday's 4-1 loss to St. Louis. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to receive the nod in place of Howard, who was sidelined eight games with the initial injury in December.
Gustavsson, who has been out with a groin injury since Dec. 28, will face a stern test as the defending Stanley Cup champions have won seven straight regular-season contests versus their Original Six rivals. Detroit provided quite the scare for Chicago during the playoffs, however, winning three of the first four games of their Western Conference second-round series before the Blackhawks turned the tide.
Chicago fared well against arguably two of the best teams in the league, posting a 4-2 triumph over NHL-leading Anaheim on Friday before skating to a 3-2 victory against Boston two days later in a rematch of the Stanley Cup final.
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ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (32-8-11): Former Red Wing Marian Hossa has been on a tear, collecting five goals and two assists during his five-game point streak. Corey Crawford hasn't been too shabby in his own right as he received the NHL's Third Star of the Week. The Montreal native turned aside 34 shots on Sunday and owns an 11-2-2 mark with a slim 1.82 goals-against average versus Detroit.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (21-18-10): Injuries remain the name of the game for Detroit, which likely will see superstar Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) miss his eighth straight contest and veteran Daniel Alfredsson (back) his sixth. Jonathan Ericsson told reporters that he expects to play, although coach Mike Babcock told MLive.com that "there's a chance" the defenseman would compete. Ericsson has been sidelined since Dec. 23 with broken ribs.
1. Although Blackhawks RW Patrick Kane netted the shootout winner on Sunday, he is mired in a 10-game goalless drought.
2. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg has one goal and two assists in his last two games overall - and 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 51 career contests versus Chicago.
3. Blackhawks D Brent Seabrook scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of their series against the Red Wings last season.
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