(Sports Network) - Along the path to their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years, the Chicago Blackhawks also ended the Detroit Red Wings' string of eight straight Central Division titles.
In a matchup of the last three Western Conference champions, the Blackhawks and Red Wings clash this evening in Chicago's home opener at United Center.
Coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, including a championship in 2008, the Red Wings split their six regular-season meetings with the Blackhawks a season ago but finished 10 points behind Chicago in the Central standings.
Detroit was then eliminated in the second round of the postseason by San Jose, while Chicago eventually defeated Philadelphia in six games to capture its first Stanley Cup since 1961. The Blackhawks will raise that championship banner before tonight's game, but in front of a host of new faces.
Salary cap issues caused the Blackhawks to either trade away or let walk by way of free agency Antti Niemi,Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg and John Madden. Chicago's new-look lineup, which is also without the injured Brian Campbell (sprained knee), took the ice for the first time on Thursday and lost a 4-3 overtime decision at Colorado.
Brian Bickell, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp all scored for the Blackhawks, who have lost five of their last six openers. Marty Turco, brought in to replace Niemi, made 37 saves in his Chicago debut.
"We battled it out," said Turco. "[The Avalanche] have good skill players and they rushed the net well. It's only one game into the season and we're not going to hang our heads. We will improve."
The Red Wings didn't leave themselves much room for improvement on Friday night, winning their season opener, 4-0, over the Anaheim Ducks.
Just 24 seconds after Johan Franzen gave Detroit an early lead Mike Modano scored on his first shot in a Red Wings uniform. The Livonia, Michigan native, who grew up 20 minutes from downtown Detroit, notched the 558th goal of his career and 1,360th point, both all-time highs for American-born skaters.
Modano had spent his entire career with the Minnesota/Dallas franchise after being selected with the first pick of the 1988 draft. He signed with the Red Wings as a free agent this offseason and enjoyed a special homecoming.
"I didn't sleep much [Thursday] night and [Friday] afternoon," Modano told Detroit's website. "It's a great excitement and something that I haven't felt in quite a long time playing the game, so I'm pretty happy about that."
Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk each had a goal and an assist for Detroit, while Jimmy Howard made 21 saves for his fourth career shutout.
Detroit has won four of its last six in Chicago.