Blackhawks Wrap Up Series Vs Wild in Minnesota
The Chicago Blackhawks have an impressive record over their last ten games, going 7-1-2 over that span. Tonight, the Blackhawks will close out their four game season series with the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
Despite Chicago's recent formidable record and their clinched playoff position, the Blackhawks still have plenty to work on. Chicago has allowed 20 goals over the last five games to their opposition. At this point in the season, that's not a statistic a team can really feel too good about.
The last time these two teams met three days ago, Minnesota forced the Blackhawks to chase them for the duration of the game, until Patrick Kane finally tied it up with less than 2 minutes in regulation to force overtime. However, the Wild ended it in a shootout to get the extra point.
The Hawks welcome back top defenseman Duncan Keith to the lineup after completing his five game suspension for his elbow to the head of Daniel Sedin in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. Chicago hopes that his return can further stabilize an inconsistent blue line, and in turn, provide enough support to goaltenders Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Crawford is expected to get the start for the Hawks tonight.
Chicago's offense has not slowed down much, as Patrick Kane has three goals and five points in his last 3 games, Nick Leddy has four assists over that span and Patrick Sharp has at least one goal in his last three games as well.
Chicago's special teams continue to struggle as the regular season comes to a close. Of teams currently in playoff position, the Hawks are one of the few of those teams to have both their penalty kill and power play producing in the bottom third of the league rankings. Special teams can make or break a playoff series and the Blackhawks will have to find a way to improve both the power play and the penalty kill if they hope to make a deep playoff run.
The Hawks continue to remain without Jonathan Toews and it appears Dave Bolland will also miss at least one game as well. Andrew Brunette, meanwhile, is questionable for tonight's game for the Hawks.
The Minnesota Wild have enjoyed some decent success lately and are 3-0-1 in their last four games, though they are barely under .500 for their overall record.
One of the reasons the Wild slowed down significantly midway through the season was their drop-off in goal production. They currently rank last in the league in goals for and are only 13th in the NHL in fewest goals allowed. For a team that employs a dedication to defense, your defense has to be pretty great if your team is going to end up last in the league in scoring.
Minnesota is also missing several key roster players to concussions, such as Matt Cullen, Guillaume Latendresse, Jared Spurgeon, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, as well as several other players to a variety of injuries, including Matt Kassian, Steven Kampfer and Mike Lundin. The icing on the seasonal cake for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild have a few players who have produced nicely against the Blackhawks, such as Devin Setoguchi, Tom Gilbert and Dany Heatley. Gilbert has an impressive six points in four games against the Hawks this year (three of which he played as an Oiler) and Setoguchi and Heatley both have four and three points respectively over the three game series.
At this point, the Wild are mostly playing for pride and taking opportunities to build on some last few efforts against conference teams, like they did with their shootout win over the Blackhawks on Sunday. However, teams playing for pride can be plenty dangerous at this point in the regular season.
Tonight's game will be televised on CSN-Chicago, FS-North and FS-Wisconsin at 7 pm CT.