DETROIT – The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks kept rolling in the Motor City.
Tomas Kopecky scored twice and Corey Crawford made 36 saves, lifting Chicago to a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Dave Bolland made it 1-1 in the first period and Troy Brouwer ended the scoring for the Blackhawks, who are on a 5-0-1 streak.
“We’ve got confidence in ourselves,” Kopecky said. “Just going with the flow.”
After champagne flowed in the Windy City, the Blackhawks couldn’t afford to keep several key contributors because of the salary cap and that had the defending champions hovering barely over .500 in each of the first three months.
But Chicago is 6-2-1 in January and starting to look more like a team that could contend for the title again.
“The biggest thing is chemistry,” Patrick Kane said.
Having a consistent cast of players to use has certainly helped, too.
“We’ve got a healthy lineup, so we’ve got our rotations down,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
The banged-up Red Wings, meanwhile, are reeling without injured players such as Pavel Datsyuk, Dan Cleary and Brad Stuart. They’ve won just two of their last six games and are 5-4-1 this month after being 15 games over .500 from October through December.
“We can’t make excuses about who’s in and out of the lineup,” goaltender Jimmy Howard said.
Detroit learned a few hours before the game that the New York Islanders had claimed goaltender Evgeni Nabokov off waivers, trumping the one-year contract the Russian had signed with the Red Wings.
Nabokov couldn’t pick the place to resume his NHL career after starting the season playing in Russia, but a person familiar with his plans told The Associated Press that the 35-year-old goaltender has decided he won’t report to the Islanders.
The Red Wings were hoping to add Nabokov to help out while backup Chris Osgood recovers from hernia surgery and perhaps to push Howard.
“Management did what they thought was necessary for our team,” Howard said. “If I needed someone else to push me, I’ve got major problems. I can push myself and I know where I want to be as a player to help this team win.”
The Central Division-leading Red Wings are trying to hold off Nashville and Chicago in the division, while pushing prospects onto the ice in the place of injured veterans.
“We’re just trying to find a way to survive,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
One of those players, Cory Emmerton, took advantage of the unexpected opportunity by scoring in his NHL debut to give Detroit its only lead against Chicago midway through the first period.
“The great thing about this league is each and every day, it’s an evolution and somebody is trying to take your job,” Babcock said. “If you want your own job, you have to keep it.”
Howard, whose job might’ve been in jeopardy if Nabokov had joined the team, let Bolland tie the game 1-1 late in the first period, allowed to Kopecky score twice in the second period and Brouwer to seal the victory with a goal midway through the third.
“He’s been making saves, but we have to be able to help him with rebounds,” Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom said.
Notes: Kopecky, one of the contributors the Red Wings haven’t been able to keep in recent years because of the salary cap, scored his ninth and 10th goals this season. … Crawford is 16-8-2 in 26 games, while Marty Turco is 10-10-2 in 25 games for the Blackhawks. … Datsyuk (right wrist), Cleary (left ankle), Stuart (jaw), Osgood (hernia), Mike Modano (right wrist) and Tomas Holmstrom (right hand) did not play and have combined to miss 72 games this season. … Bolland has a five-game points streak.