Chicago are the current Stanley Cup champs and will be until someone else wins the trophy in the 2011 playoffs. But as the second season approaches, the Blackhawks don’t even know whether they will be participating or not.

They’ll face the Detroit Red Wings twice to finish of their regular season schedule and their play will determine their fate. The urgency isn’t there for the Red Wings, so look for the Blackhawks to take advantage.

The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win Because…:

Leading goal scorer Patrick Sharp is back in the lineup and the scoring appears to be intact once again.

The Chicago Blackhawks had scored just 13 goals in the seven games that Sharp missed but in his first game back, they notched four. That’s not a coincidence. Sharp had an assist and registered a team-high seven shots in his return.

At the same time, the Red Wings will be without one of their top scorers as Henrik Zetterberg will miss both games against Chicago with a lower body injury. He leads the Red Wings with 80 points this season.

The Blackhawks are just 6-5-3 over their last 14 games but don’t blame goaltender Corey Crawford for that. He’s allowed just 17 goals his last nine starts, but the Blackhawks just haven’t provided him with enough support to get the job done.

The Red Wings are in a slump of their own as they have just seven wins in their last 17. At one point, they had a cushy lead for the No. 2 seed in the conference but they’ve now slid to third. There’s just something a little off with the Red Wings team and they aren’t the dominant Western Conference powerhouse of old.

The Detroit Red Wings Can Win Because…:

The Blackhawks are reeling right now.

They are supposed to be the reigning, defending Stanley Cup champs but if the playoffs started today, the Blackhawks would be the last team in and only by a hair.

Chicago had lost two straight and nearly made a third when the lowly St. Louis Blues visited on Wednesday. The Blackhawks had to climb out of a 2-0 hole and escape with a 4-3 overtime win against a Blues squad that had nothing to play for.

The Blackhawks power play, which has been a big weapon for them this season, has gone completely cold. They have just one tally in their last one goal on the man advantage in their last 17 opportunities.

Outlook & NHL Betting Prediction:

The Blackhawks have won the last three meetings between the teams while holding the Red Wings to just four goals in those games. With Crawford playing well and Sharp back in the lineup, look for the Blackhawks to hand the Red Wings another loss.

Detroit might be at home for this contest but Joe Louis Arena hasn’t exactly provided much of a home-ice advantage of late. They have just four wins in their last 11 home contests.

Pick: Blackhawks