If the Minnesota Wild’s play lately is any indication, they should be all set for a bounce-back, dominant victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night in St. Paul.
In their past four games, the Wild (29-19-6) have a 5-2 victory, 6-1 loss, 6-1 victory and 4-3 overtime loss. Following this pattern would mean a win against the division-rival Blackhawks (24-22-8), a team that occupies the division basement.
Valentine’s Day hasn’t even arrived yet, but this will mark the final regular-season meeting of the season between these two clubs. This will be the tiebreaker as each team has a pair of victories. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane has four points in the head-to-head series this year, and the Wild’s Jason Zucker has a goal and three assists.
The Wild are 21-12-2 all-time at home against the Blackhawks, and they’re 10-4-1 in their last 15 meetings. Fourteen of the last 28 games have gone to a shootout.
It’s likely the Wild will do everything they can to erase the memories of the overtime loss to the NHL’s worst team, made worse by the fact that they held a 3-0 lead -- in the third period, no less. Eric Staal, Matt Cullen and Mike Reilly were the goal scorers, while Devan Dubnyk came up with 36 saves.
Staal maintains his stance at the top of the leaderboard with 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points. Mikael Granlund is six back with 15 goals and 28 assists. Staal has 12 points in his last nine games (5-7—12) and has 41 points in 42 games dating back to Nov. 6. He also leads the team in shots on goal with 147, shorthanded goals (two) and multi-point games (14).
With his next point, Staal will become just the 10th player in franchise history to hit the 50-point mark in multiple seasons with the Wild. He totaled 65 points (28-37—65) in his first season with the Wild last year.
Defenseman Ryan Suter has 35 points (6-29—35) against the Blackhawks in 70 career games; it’s his highest point total against any team. He has a goal and an assist in the season series this year.
In a bit of a turnabout for the Blackhawks, they’re on a four-game losing skid and have lost eight of their past 10 games. They’re eight points behind the Wild in the divisional standings. Saturday’s game could be a match between a couple desperate teams, with the Wild hoping to make the playoffs and the Blackhawks still not throwing in the towel.
Chicago is trying to make postseason play for the 10th consecutive year. Of course, they’ve already won three Stanley Cups. Kane is the team points, goals and assists leader with 21 goals and 32 assists. Then there’s Nick Schmaltz with 39 points (15-24—39), and Jonathan Toews had 15 goals and 20 assists. Defenseman Duncan Keith has 25 assists and is still in search of a goal this season.
The Wild beat goaltender Anton Forsberg last time out, 2-1, with Corey Crawford out indefinitely with an injury.
Despite the up-and-down play and disappointing loss to the Coyotes, the Wild still haven’t lost in regulation at home in their past 11 games, going 8-0-3 in that span. They’re 18-4-5 at Xcel Energy Center.
A couple other notes: With Reilly’s goal last game, Gustov Olofsson is the only active Wild player without a goal this season. He has four assists in 30 games. Nino Niederreiter has 99 career goals. Matt Dumba has five points in his past five games.
Jonas Brodin (surgery on left hand), 1 game
Total man games lost: 103