Season series -- Before the Original Six rivals met in the Western Conference Final last season, Detroit won four of six regular-season meetings (two in shootouts), including a 6-4 win at the 2009 Winter Classic. Chicago won the most recent regular-season meeting, 3-0 on April 12, 2009.
Big Story -- Both the Hawks and Wings are returning from the 2009 Compuware/NHL Premiere -- the Hawks split two games with Florida in Helsinki, while the Wings lost twice to St. Louis in Stockholm. It's the first game that counts at Joe Louis Arena since the Wings lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh last June.
Blackhawks -- The Hawks did not get off to the start they had hoped for in Europe. Chicago lost the Victoria Cup in a shocking 2-1 loss to ZSC Lions Zurich before dropping its season-opener in Helsinki, 4-3 in a shootout to the Panthers. The Blackhawks rebounded the next day with a dominating 4-0 win, in no small part due to a 23-save performance by backup goalie Antti Niemi, who was playing in his native Finland. With the pageantry, and perhaps more notably the exhaustion, of traveling across the pond out of the way, the Hawks will look to build on their win over Florida as they take on Detroit for the first time this season.
Red Wings -- After back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, Detroit was probably expecting a better start to the season than its 0-fer in Stockholm. Despite heavy support for the Wings from the home crowd -- Detroit has more Swedes (8) than Americans (4) on its roster -- the defending Western Conference champs dropped both of their meetings with St. Louis. If coming away without a win wasn't frustrating enough, the Wings blew a two-goal lead in each game. The Red Wings are expected to contend once again for the Stanley Cup, but they've hit an early pothole. Including the postseason, the Wings beat the Hawks in eight of their 11 meetings last season.
Who's Hot -- If Patrick Kane was distracted by his offseason issues, he certainly didn't show it in Helsinki. The 2008 Calder Trophy winner scored twice and added a pair of assists against the Panthers, while defenseman Brent Seabrook also had a strong performance in Europe with 3 three assists. Dan Cleary and Henrik Zetterberg each had two points for the Wings.
Injury Report -- Ben Eager and Dave Bolland are out for Chicago with upper body injuries. Troy Brouwer, who is battling a lower body injury, is listed as questionable. Chicago's Marian Hossa, out until at least mid-November after off-season shoulder surgery, will have to wait for his first visit to the Joe since signing as a free agent this summer. Andreas Lilja and Darren Helm are both on injured reserve for the Wings.
Stat Pack -- Since 2002, the last time they made the playoffs before 2008-09, the Hawks have gone 5-13-2 at Joe Louis Arena -- a winning percentage of just .250. That will have to change for Chicago to wrest control of the Central Division away from Detroit.
Puck Drop -- Both the Red Wings and Blackhawks have high expectations for the 2009-10 season, with many picking one or the other to be the last Western Conference team standing in June. Thursday night is just one of six games the two will play this season, but if Chicago pulls out a regulation victory, it would mean a huge five-point head start over its longtime rival.