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With New Year's Day approaching, it's not surprising there's plenty of attention surrounding the matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.
First, however, these Original Six teams will meet for the 700th time in the NHL's longest-standing rivalry on Tuesday night when the Blackhawks seek to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 10 games as they meet the defending Stanley Cup champions in the opener of a home-and-home series at Joe Louis Arena.
Chicago (20-6-7) posted a 4-1 win over Minnesota on Sunday for the first nine-game winning streak in the franchise's 82-year history. Additionally, the Blackhawks' 10-0-1 surge this month has moved them within four points of the Central Division-leading Red Wings with two games in hand, adding to Winter Classic hype.
But Chicago appears more focused on Tuesday's contest as Detroit (23-7-5) has won the first two matchups in this season, both by shootout. On Dec. 6, Pavel Datsyuk scored the lone goal in the tiebreaker for a 5-4 Red Wings victory and the Blackhawks' only loss this month.
"We're excited about this game coming up. There's going to be a lot of talk, but that's nothing new," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "Everyone's talking about the game on Jan. 1, but we're keeping focused on every upcoming game as if it's the biggest game of the season."
Chicago is among the highest-scoring clubs in the league with 123 goals - five fewer than the Red Wings - and has averaged 4.44 during its winning streak.
Against Minnesota, Dustin Byfuglien had two goals and two assists while rookie scoring leader Kris Versteeg had a goal and two assists, giving him 29 points.
Balancing that offense has been solid goaltending from Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin, who have collectively allowed 1.33 goals per contest in that span. Opponents have totaled three tallies in the last three games
Huet made 18 saves on Sunday, meaning Khabibulin could be back in net as Chicago tries to win six straight road games for the first time since reeling off a franchise-record seven in a row from Dec. 9-29, 1964.
Khabibulin is 6-0-0 with a 2.51 goals-against average in his last seven road contests, and has won two of his previous three in Detroit to improve to 6-2-1 in his last 10 against the Red Wings.
Detroit has won three straight and eight of its last nine at home, but is coming off back-to-back road losses. After the Red Wings allowed three power-play goals in the first period, Tomas Holmstrom had a goal and assisted on two more in the second in a 4-3 shootout loss on Saturday at Colorado.
"We battled back and fought all the way through," said Henrik Zetterberg, who has 16 goals and 32 points in 30 career contests against Chicago.
Winger Jiri Hudler has four goals and eight assists in the last eight matchups against the Blackhawks, who look to hand the Red Wings their first three-game losing streak since an 0-4-1 stretch Feb. 7-17.
With Chris Osgood sidelined by a strained groin, Ty Conklin could make his sixth straight start. He's 5-0-0 with a 2.42 GAA in six games against Chicago.
It's unclear, however, if Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom will return on Tuesday. The six-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman is day-to-day with an ankle injury.