Just as everyone expected, the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild are knotted at 48 points with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. By the time Wednesday is over, one team will have at least one more point than the other as they try and move up in the Central Division.
The fifth-place Blackhawks (21-15-6) will host the sixth-place Wild (22-17-4) at United Center for their fourth meeting of the season. The Wild won in Chicago during the injury-filled game on Oct. 12, then lost once each at home and in Chicago last month. The Blackhawks have outscored the Wild 11-3 this season.
Both teams come in having just played the night before on the road. For the Wild, it was a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary in St. Paul, while Chicago crushed Ottawa 8-2. Both teams also have the bye week ahead next week. The Wild are just 2-4-0 on the second night of back-to-back games.
With a game on the road, the Wild will look to kill some demons. They’re just 8-13-1 away from home this season and haven’t won on the road since Dec. 19, losing four straight road games.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk is 11-8-0 with one shutout in 22 games against the Blackhawks. Expect him in goal after Alex Stalock started on Tuesday. On the other end, the Wild nemesis Corey Crawford is injured. Jeff Glass will likely start after Anton Forsberg had the net against Ottawa.
Glass is 2-1-1 in four NHL starts and hasn’t faced the Wild.
The Wild’s defensive corps has 97 points this season (22 goals, 75 assists) in 43 games, the fourth-most points by a blue line in the league this year. Ryan Suter leads the way with 27 points, followed by Jared Spurgeon (22 points), Matt Dumba (21 points) and Jonas Brodin (nine points).
Suter has five goals and 29 assists for 34 points in 69 career games against Chicago, his most points against any NHL team. He tallied two assists Tuesday night against Calgary. He leads the team with 22 assists this season.
For the Blackhawks, Patrick Kane leads the way with 45 points (18-27—45). Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz follow with 31 points each; they each scored a pair of goals Tuesday night. Defenseman Duncan Keith has zero goals in 42 games this season but has 22 assists.
Kane, who tallied the first five-point game of his career against Ottawa, is just three points shy of 800 for his career. Kane has 18 career goals against the Wild. Toews has multi-point games in four of his last five games.
With Nino Niederreiter missing the last game and out for the week with a lower-body injury, the Wild have only had a healthy roster for two games this season.
Nino Niederreiter (lower body), 1 game
Total man games lost: 95
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