By Brad Vandenberk
The United Center was rocking on Friday night to witness the season’s first matchup between central divisional rivals Detroit Redwings and the Chicago Blackhawks. This game was circled on the calendar for both teams as the Hawks have held their divisional lead over the Red Wings all season. This would be the first of six for these 2 teams, with the first three games coming within 16 days.
Dan Carcillo returned to the lineup after suffering a concussion during the Minnesota Wild game on December 14. Jimmy Hayes made his NHL debut after being called up from Rockford on Thursday. He had switched places with Brandon Pirri who was sent back down after a mediocre game against LA on Wednesday.
With Carcillo and Hayes being inserted into the lineup, coach Q tried a new set of lines for this important matchup. Jonathan Toews was reunited with Marian Hossa and Carcillo. Patrick Kane saw himself back in the middle between Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg. Dave Bolland was still with Bryan Bickell and newly rewarded Michael Frolik. Hayes started the game on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette. The Blackhawks scratches for the game were Sami Lepisto, John Scott and Marcus Kruger, who is still suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
Jimmy Hayes made his presence felt early as he used his 6’6” frame to go Red Wing hunting. He had a couple of nice hits which separated the man from the puck. Carcillo also made it known he was back, as he laid a great hit on Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi in front of the player benches. Bertuzzi took exception to the clean hit and chased Carcillo to center ice where they decided to get the 22,166 season high crowd on their feet. Both fighters got their fare share of punches in and no decision was decided.
The Red Wings got on the board early as Justin Abdelkader buried a rebound of a Drew Miller shot.
That didn’t deter the Hawks as they came back in the Wings zone with authority. Kane had a few chances as well as Hossa but Redwings goaltender Jimmy Howard stood strong. Finally, Jonathan Toews was sent in on a half break away and was hooked under the right arm by Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. The referee through his arm in the air and pointed to center ice, indicating a penalty shot. Knowing Toews is automatic in shootouts, this got the crowd on their feet. Toews took the puck at center ice, came in and went five-hole tying the game at one with 5:28 remaining in the first. The period ended with the Hawks outshooting the Wings 10-7.
The Hawks opened the second period on their first power play as Lidstrom was unable to catch Toews again and was called for a hook as the first period expired. The Hawks were unsuccessful during their power play attempt put were pouring on the pressure. Bryan Bickell drew another penalty as the Wings were starting to feel the speed of the Hawks. Sharp had a great chance on the doorstep but is unable to finish and the Wings killed another Hawks power play.
Bolland was up to his “rat” like qualities and hammered Pavel Datsyuk with a check . Moments later Mike Commodore let a shot go from the blue line. It hit Bertuzzi and made it past Cory Crawford giving the Wings the lead once again.
Just two minutes later Marian Hossa took the puck around the zone playing a little game of keep away and let a rocket go from the left circle which got past Howard tying the score again at two with 12:30 left in the second period.
During a Wings power play Hossa and Bolland break in on a 2 on 1 with Hossa shooting wide. Wings end the period with a few attempts on Crawford. One puck beat him but not the post keeping the score tied at period’s end. The Wings take the period in shots 14-8.
The tie was broken just 1:52 into the third period as Kane got a pass to Brent Seabrook who let a howitzer go from the slot. 3-2 Hawks with a period remaining.
Later, Bertuzzi was called for goaltender interference and the Hawks go on their fourth power play of the game. Again the Hawks were unable to add to their lead.
In the end, the Hawks win the game 3-2 and take the first contest between these two rivals.
-The three stars of the game were 3)Seabrook, 2)Toews, 1)Hossa.
-The Hawks and Wings each had 28 shots on goal.
-No power play goals were scored during the game as the Hawks go 0/5 and the Wings go 0/1.
-Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 28:28 TOI.
-Toews led the team with 6 shots on net.
-The Hawks remain atop the Central division and the NHL with (24-10-4) 52 points.
-Hawks next game will be against the Edmonton Oilers Monday night at the UC as the try to avenge the 9-2 route they received in Edmonton in November.