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Red Wings, Blackhawks Duel In Central Division Showdown

The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings enter tonight's matchup at Joe Louis Arena a little beat up.

Detroit will be without starting goaltender Jimmy Howard and forward Pavel Datsyuk tonight. Howard was injured on Saturday when Toronto's Joffrey Lupul fell on his shoulder and Datsyuk has been out since last week when he was injured by Columbus' Rick Nash.

Chicago will be missing scoring forward Patrick sharp and checking liner Dave Bolland. Sharp might not be available until the playoffs and Bolland is out indefinitely with a concussion.

Nevertheless, Detroit got some good news today when it was announced that Johan Franzen will return to the lineup after missing four games with a groin problem. Franzen's presence gives Detroit enough forwards that Drew Miller will be a healthy scratch tonight. Franzen is expected to play on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi.

Joey MacDonald will start in net in place of Howard and Grand Rapids call up Thomas McCollum will serve as backup. Howard expects to miss only one game after spraining his shoulder.

Detroit and Chicago are both locked in the tight Western Conference playoff race and need a win tonight to improve their chances. Chicago is clinging to the final playoff spot by one point over Calgary and two points over Dallas, while Detroit enters the game tied with San Jose at 97 points for the West's second overall seed. The Red Wings' lead in the Central Division has also withered to five points over Nashville.

Players to Watch

Jiri Hudler, Red Wings: The little guy scored the winner against Toronto on Saturday and has really improved his game after a dreadful start to the season.

Marian Hossa, Blackhawks: The former Red Wing anchors the Blackhawks' second line along with former Detroit forward Tomas Kopecky. Both have been a thorn in the Red Wings' side; Kopecky had two goals in his last game against Detroit and Hossa has 12 points in 18 career games against the Wings.