Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser (65) steals the puck from Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

NHL on NBCSN: Detroit pumped to face Chicago


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Red Wings and Blackhawks were battling for supremacy in the Central Division. Now the two aren’t even in the same conference and while Chicago remains one of the best teams in the league, Detroit is a squad in transition, trying to rebuild while still somehow extending the 22-season playoff appearance streak.

That might not be such a daunting task for the Red Wings if they were anywhere close to 100 percent, but they’re not. They’re missing their two best forwards in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

By comparison, Chicago only had one significant void in its lineup due to the absence of Marian Hossa (upper body) and it looks like even he’s probable for tonight’s game, per If he returns, Chicago will enter the game with six players that have recorded over 40 points in 2013-14. Detroit will start the contest with none.

Even with the odds so heavily stacked against them, a game against the Blackhawks might do Detroit some good.

“We’re always fired up to play them,” Gustav Nyquist told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a good rivalry.

“You know they’re a great team, they’ve been good for a few years now, so it’s going to be a challenge but we’re looking forward to coming into their building, it’s a fun building to play in.”

While the Red Wings are trying to claw their way into the playoffs, this game isn’t devoid of meaning for the Blackhawks. It’s a given that they’ll advance to the postseason, but they still have a legitimate shot at second place in the Central Division. The only problem is they’re going through a bit of a slump after dropping their last two games and five of their last eight.

“The last couple of (losses) were definitely winnable hockey games. Those are the games that bother us, me more than anybody. We didn’t play the right way to give us a chance to win,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. Forward Patrick Sharp added that they’ve been falling victim to preventable mistakes.

Just as this match between old rivals might spark Detroit, this could be what Chicago needs to get back on track. One thing is a safe bet: these two points will be hotly contested.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.