Blackhawks face Wild for last time during regular season
In 2011, the Minnesota Wild gave the Blackhawks a gift: by beating the Dallas Stars in their final game of the season, it sent Chicago to the playoffs.
This past week, the Wild again secured the Blackhawks a playoff berth with a win. However, this time, Chicago was already sitting in a comfortable position; it was just a matter of clinching.
The two Central division rivals face off for the last time of the regular season on Thursday night at the United Center. Both teams are under .500 for their past ten games; the Wild have gone 4-4-2 and the Blackhawks have gone 4-5-1.
Chicago would like to get two points to keep their hope of home ice in the playoffs alive. Minnesota wants any points it can get to keep themselves firmly in a playoff postion - they currently lead the wild card race in the Western Conference at 89 points with just six games remaining, only four points ahead of Dallas (85 points/seven games remaining) and Phoenix (85 points/six games remaining).
The Wild have won three of the four games played between these two teams so far this season. Chicago's only win versus them came in late October at St. Paul.
The Blackhawks officially announced on Wednesday that Jonathan Toews would be out for the rest of the regular season, but would rest up and return for the playoffs. Toews was injured in Sunday's game versus the Penguins when Brooks Orpik checked him in the boards. Patrick Kane also remains out for the rest of the regular season (lower body); Bryan Bickell (lower body) is expected to return on Thursday, while Michal Rozsíval (lower body) has begun practicing with the team again.
Minnesota is without center Mikael Granland, who took an "upper body" injury earlier this week in a game vs the LA Kings. In addition, the Wild are missing Jason Zucker (quad), Keith Ballard (lower body), and goalie Niklas Bäckström (abdominal).
- Center Joakim Nordström was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs by the Blackhawks on Wednesday.
- The Blackhawks announced that defenseman Stephen Johns, who was a second-round 2010 Draft pick (60th overall) for the Blackhawks, was officially signed to a two-year deal. Johns, 21, was an alternate captain for the University of Notre Dame this year; he finished his senior season with 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games played. Johns plays a physical brand of defense; fans of Brent Seabrook will see Johns as a similar-style player.
- It has also officially been announced that the Blackhawks have agreed to a five-year agreement with a new ECHL affiliate, the Indy Fuel. For the past five seasons, the Blackhawks have shared their Toledo Walleye ECHL affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings. With their move to the Fuel, the Blackhawks will be the sole affiliate of the new ECHL team. The Indy Fuel will play at the newly renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum.
- The Blackhawks have updated their radio broadcast schedule for the end of the season. Due to schedule conflicts, the games versus St. Louis (Sun. 4/6), Montréal (Wed. 4/9), and Washington (Fri. 4/11) will be broadcast on 87.7 FM The Game instead of WGN 720 AM.