Instead, it’s the Blackhawks dominating the division while the Red Wings are just trying to reach the playoffs.
Chicago can take the season series with a fourth consecutive win over Detroit on Sunday when the rivals meet at the United Center.
The Red Wings (30-22-12) have won the last eight Central titles, with most coming in comfortable fashion while also claiming four Presidents’ Trophies and two Stanley Cups over that stretch.
Detroit’s Central reign is all but mathematically over this season thanks to the Blackhawks (43-16-5), who last division crown came in 1992-93.
The Red Wings are third in the Central, three points back of Nashville but 19 behind first-place Chicago. Detroit is more concerned with just qualifying for the playoffs, currently holding the eighth and final postseason position by one point.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are competing with San Jose for the best record in the Western Conference, while also chasing Washington in the race for the NHL’s best record.
“We’re gonna have a real good opponent in Chicago. We’re gonna have to be prepared and play real hard and get solid goaltending,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
Chicago has won the last three meetings with the Wings after falling 3-2 at home to open the season series Oct. 8. The Blackhawks won 4-3 in a shootout at Detroit in the most recent matchup Jan. 17 after shutting them out twice in December.
“It was a good start for us emotionally,” said left wing Andrew Ladd(notes), one of six goal scorers for Chicago on Friday. “It was great obviously getting contributions from a lot of different guys.”
The Blackhawks’ success this season has been spurred by the best home record in the West at 25-6-2, including four straight wins.
“Getting that support and enthusiasm behind you, it’s very helpful and beneficial,” coach Joel Quenneville said of playing at the United Center. “I think we always want to take advantage of it.”
Quenneville’s club ranks among the league’s highest-scoring teams with 3.20 goals per game, and now forward Adam Burish(notes) could make his season debut after being sidelined by a torn ACL. He had career highs with six goals and nine points in 66 games last season.
Sharp has eight goals and six assists in 15 meetings, including five points this season. The left wing scored in regulation before netting the decisive shootout attempt in the last matchup.
Kane, the team leader with 26 goals and 73 assists, also found the net against the Red Wings in January and has three goals and five assists in eight home meetings.
The Red Wings have won three of four after scoring the first four goals to beat Nashville 5-2 on Friday.
Pavel Datsyuk(notes), who had one goal and one assist Friday, is providing some offensive punch for Detroit, scoring seven goals and setting up 10 more over the last 13 games. The center hasn’t enjoyed much success against the Blackhawks lately, with just three assists in the last six games.
Datsyuk leads the Wings with 54 points after getting 97 in each of the last two seasons.
The teams also play at Chicago in the regular-season finale April 11, but it’s possible they will meet in the first round of the playoffs after Detroit beat the Blackhawks in last season’s conference finals.