Photo: AP

Alas, gone are the days when we can joke about Detroit (*spitting noise*) being better suited for catheters than jock straps. No doubt embarrassed by the constant jokes about Depends undergarments and tapioca pudding, tonight the Red Wings will dress only three players age 35 or older: felon Todd Bertuzzi, AARP spokesperson Nicklas Lidstrom, and backup bingo-caller Ty Conklin.

That’s probably for the better: I was running out of senior citizen jokes. And yes, Tomas Holmstrom falls into that category as well, but he fell and broke his hip while going to get his dentures re-fitted. Or something. Anyhow, he isn’t playing tonight.

As is usually the case, there is a lot of bad news associated with playing our hated rivals from the Motor City. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10. They have the same complement of scoring assets that they show up with every year. They have the fourth-most-potent power play. They are allowing the fourth-fewest goals-against in the league. And their goaltender Jimmy Howard has the best record in the league at 22-8-1, a 1.95 GAA and .927 save percentage.

Any thoughts that this would be an easy game should be dismissed immediately. Detroit (*spitting noise*) is nipping at our heels in the standings, and is eager to take a big bite out of their Windy City opponents.

Now: there is some good news as well. The Wings are 9-10-0 on the road, very unusual for them. Their losses in December have mostly come when scoring 2 goals or fewer, their wins are nearly all when scoring 4 goals or more. With the Blackhawks strong between the pipes at the moment, this bodes well for our chances. And their penalty kill is down there with, well… with ours, quite frankly. So we have the ability to light them up if we can draw some penalties. That will be somewhat difficult, however: they are the least-penalized team in the league.

Players to watch out for: there is a surprise waiting for us on defense, believe it or not. Ian White has 5 goals and 14 assists, and leads the team in plus-minus. Detroit (*spitting noise*) is his 5th team in 3 seasons, but for some reason he has decided to turn on the jets this year. Not a big guy, 5’10″ and 191 lbs. But we had better make sure he doesn’t come out of nowhere to hit us when it hurts.

Speaking of hurting us, there have been some moves afoot in the Blackhawks’ locker room that will mean noticeable changes on the ice tonight. First off, Daniel Carcillo is scheduled to make his return to the lineup after missing the last several weeks with a lower-body injury. Also, Brandon Pirri was returned to Rockford and Jimmy Hayes recalled — he will make his regular-season NHL debut tonight.

This would all be news in and of itself, were it not for the line combinations Head Coach Joel Quenneville has been running at practice: Jonathan Toews centering Marian Hossa and Carcillo; Patrick Kane centering Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg; Dave Bolland centering Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik; and the popcorn vendor from Section 212 centering the guy who won last game’s “Shoot-The-Puck,” and Mike Kitchen’s 12-year-old niece, Allie.

Kidding. But not. I mean, yes, I’m kidding. It’s Jamal Mayers, Andrew Brunette and Jimmy Hayes on the fourth line. But Q, for the love of all things holy, when will this end? We’re approaching the halfway point of the season, and you’re STILL juggling wingers like a circus clown on crystal meth! Surely we’re to the point where you will get better results by drawing names out of a hat. Or, you could go completely radical, surprise every Blackhawks fan in Christendom, and keep the lines the same for more than two games in a row!

Nahhh, what am I saying. That’s crazy talk…

The Blackhawks were on a serious roll up until the dismal performance against Los Angeles, when not only couldn’t we put the biscuit in the basket, we allowed 38 shots on our net. Neutral zone play was also a mess, as the Kings forced 13 Chicago turnovers during that tilt. Repeating that performance tonight will be the fastest way to a 7-0 loss I can imagine. Here’s hoping that was an “off-night” and we’re back to playing Blackhawks hockey again when the puck drops this evening.

Administrative nonsense: As mentioned, Tomas Holmstrom is out of the lineup for the Wings, as are winger Patrick Eaves and Santa’s little helper Chris Conner (5’8″ tall in the NHL? How does he not get stepped on?). On the Chicago side, Marcus Kruger remains out with rickets (pronounced, “kun-KUH-shun”), and John Scott and Sami Lepisto are healthy scratches. Jimmy Howard will start in net for Detroit (*spitting noise*), Corey Crawford gets the nod for the Blackhawks.

Puck drops at 7:30pm tonight at the UC. Comcast SportsNet has your television coverage; WGN AM-720 will have the game on broadcast radio; XM subscribers should find the game on channel 215; Sirius Premiere customers can tune in on channel 214.

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