The Red Wings react after their 2-1 overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in May. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)
Detroit — A lot has happened since the Red Wings and Blackhawks last played at Joe Louis Arena.
For one, the Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit to knock the Red Wings from the Stanley Cup playoffs en route to the winning the Cup.
Then, off the ice, the Red Wings made a move East, leaving their rivals in the West.
And as the 2013-14 season kicked off, the Blackhawks picked up where they left off — winning. Chicago trails only Anaheim in the NHL points race, 79-75.
The Red Wings?
They’re struggling in the East (tied for eighth) thanks, in part, to their many injuries.
“When I think about it … so close, it could have been us,” Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of last season’s playoff series, which saw the Blackhawks win three straight — 4-1, 4-3 and 2-1 in overtime — to advance to the West finals. “I think it was a good kind of measuring stick for us to see who we could play against. They are the top team, the best team, and we almost took them out of the playoffs.”
Now, as the teams face off Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena, Ericsson and the Red Wings are just trying to get healthy and stay in the playoff race. And, he’s one of those getting healthy — he’s expected back Wednesday after missing 10 games with a rib injury.
The Red Wings also have lost other key players to injuries this season — Henrik Zetterberg (11 games), Pavel Datsyuk (14) and Johan Franzen (19). Zetterberg is back, but Datsyuk (lower body) and Franzen (concussion symptoms) remain out.
“You have to fight through it,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s a great time for the younger guys to get a chance to play and get some experience.”
And that’s what the Blackhawks bring to town — experience.
Veterans Patrick Kane (56 points, 23 goals), Patrick Sharp (50 points, 25 goals), Jonathan Toews (48 points, 17 goals), Duncan Keith (45 points, 42 assists) and Brent Seabrook (33 points, 27 assists) have played in all 51 games for Chicago this season. They also are the highest-scoring team (3.51 goals) and fifth on the power play (22.4 percent).
“They’re good,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “They are fast, talented, deep, good on the back end, good in net and good up front so they’ll be a handful for us obviously.
“They’ve been able to retain, keep their assets. They’re in a situation where their starts are young.”
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader is eager to get another crack at the Blackhawks.
"It's an old division rival and we enjoy playing each other,” he said. "It took a while (to get over the series), especially after you see them win (Stanley Cup), it made it even harder, but you have to move on. You learn from situations like that. It was a good experience for us, but at the same time it was pretty tough."
Babcock would love to have Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, like he did five years ago when the Red Wings last played in the Stanley Cup Finals. Hossa has 20 goals and 42 points this season, scoring a pair of goals on eight shots in a 4-2 win over Anaheim last Friday.
"Hossa ended up being a guy, in hindsight, it would have been great if we could have kept him because he's a star,” Babcock said.