Preview: Wild at Blackhawks
CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks will aim for their third win in a row when they host the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night at the United Center.
Chicago (21-15-6) has surged recently despite the absences of No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford and veteran center Artem Anisimov, both of whom have upper-body injuries. The Blackhawks have scored four-plus goals in four consecutive games and five of their past six, including an 8-2 shellacking of the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
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Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane notched a career-high five points (one goal, four assists) in the victory, while centers Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz scored two goals apiece.
“When everyone’s playing their game, everyone’s contributing, I think we’re a dangerous team,” Schmaltz said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Four lines contributed (last night). It’s scary when we’re playing that well for other teams. They don’t know who to match up against.”
Minnesota (22-17-4) also will play on short rest after losing 3-2 in overtime to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. The Wild erased a two-goal deficit in the third period to collect one point in the standings.
The Wild are winless in their past two games after winning four of the previous five contests. Along with Chicago, they are one of a half-dozen teams separated by a couple points in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.
“It seems that every team is up there, and it’s very close, and one win or one loss takes teams in or out of the playoffs,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “That’s the way it’s going to be all the way to the end. That’s why every game is critical.”
Minus Crawford, the Blackhawks have split time between goaltenders Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. Forsberg started Tuesday in Ottawa and made 25 saves to improve to 3-5-3 on the season. In his only career start against Minnesota, he stopped 29 of 31 shots but drew the loss.
Glass, a 32-year-old rookie, has yet to face Minnesota in his brief NHL career. He has a 2-1-1 record with a 3.51 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in his first four starts.
Minnesota likely will turn to Devan Dubnyk in net after he rested Tuesday against the Flames in the first game of a back-to-back set. Dubnyk is 15-9-2 with a 2.72 GAA and .916 save percentage this season, and he is 11-8-0 with a 2.90 GAA and .915 save percentage in 22 career appearances against Chicago.
Wild goaltender Alex Stalock started in his team’s most recent game against the Blackhawks. He made 42 saves but took the loss. In two games against Chicago, he is 1-1-0 with a 2.42 GAA and .938 save percentage.
This is the fourth meeting of the regular season between the division rivals. The Wild won the first game 5-2 on Oct. 12 at the United Center. The Blackhawks responded with a 2-0 win on Nov. 4 at the Xcel Energy Center and a 4-1 win on Dec. 17 back at the United Center.
Chicago is 11-6-2 at home this season. Minnesota is 8-13-1 on the road.