Blackhawks host the Wild; Road to NHL Winter Classic debuts

Nearly three months into the season, the Blackhawks (21-9-1) will welcome Central division rivals Minnesota Wild to the United Center for the first time this year. The two teams haven't met since the Blackhawks knocked the Wild out of the second round of the 2014 playoffs.

The Wild (16-11-1) have lurked in the middle of the Western standings all season. They currently sit at 10th, two places and three points outside of a wild card berth. But they also have three games in hand over the LA Kings (7th) and the Winnipeg Jets (8th), who both have 36 points.

Minnesota has been all over the map this season in terms of performance. They opened the season with three shutouts this year, all by Darcy Kuemper (11-9-0, .906 sv%, 2.45 GAA) in the first five games of the season. Kuemper shares the net with Niklas Backstrom (5-2-1, .904 sv%, 2.26 GAA). The Wild have racked up 7 goals against Tampa, and 6 versus Buffalo, but they've also been shut out by the Senators and Kings.

The Wild last played on Saturday night, a shootout win in Phoenix. The Blackhawks have had a day off since winning versus the Flames on Sunday night. In a head-to-head of general stats, the Blackhawks hedge out the Wild in nearly every category, except one: The Wild allow 3.5 fewer shots against per game.

Mikael Granlund is expected to return to the lineup for the Wild, as will Marco Scandella, who was serving a two-game suspension.

Where to watch:  CSN-Chicago, Fox Sports-North, Fox Sports-WI; radio: WGN Chicago

INJURY REPORT

Chicago: Corey Crawford (lower body) is expected to return to the lineup soon, possibly this weekend. In the meantime, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling continue to battle for the backup position.

Minnesota: Jared Spurgeon (sick), Ryan Carter (upper body), Keith Ballard (head/face), Matt Cooke (hip flexor).

EPIX will premiere Road to the NHL Winter Classic, featuring the Blackhawks and Capitals, starting Tuesday at 9 p.m. CDT. (Yes, that's in the middle of the Blackhawks-Wild game.)

Those who cannot watch EPIX via their local cable provider (Comcast and DirecTV are among those who do not carry it) can watch it unedited (that does mean "no filter") online via its own website, as well as the NHL, Blackhawks, and Capitals sites.  

Several trailers can already be viewed via the EPIX Road to the NHL Winter Classic page.

It might surprise fans to notice that the first primary poster boy for the series isn't one of the familiar All-Star faces like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, or Alex Ovechin. The most noticeable player in the first poster is Andrew Shaw, with other players blended into his silhouette. Chicago fans familiar with the the talkative forward won't be surprised to find him potentially spotlighted in the series.