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  • Preview: Bottom-feeding Blackhawks visit Wild at home


    Every year, a handful of teams are earmarked to be tire-fires on the ice. Sogroupsams exceed those bottom-of-the-barrel expectations.

    The Chicago Blackhawks are not one of those teams.

    One of the more deserved falls from grace for any club in the sports, Chicago finds themselves at the bottom of the NHL standings with a measly 18 points. That's the same amount that the resurgent Minnesota Wild have racked up in the last 30 days with a 9-4-0 record.

    It's hard not to root for complete disaster in Chicago, and we are nearly there. Patrick Kane, who was seen as the apparent key piece to move at the deadline, is on pace for his worst point total over an entire season, just 62 points over 82 games.

    Jonathan Toews has made a small bounceback but may not be seen as a depth piece for any team shopping for a center at the trade deadline.

    Seth Jones is still hilariously overvalued and underperforming.

    They still have a few young players, but none are thriving, exceeding expectations or —in all honesty— meeting expectations.

    Max Domi is their second-leading scorer with 20 points.

    The Chicago Blackhawks, after everything they did on and off the ice, are the ultimate case of schadenfreude. It's great to see.

    For the Wild, expect to see Marc-André Fleury between the pipes. Despite the strong play from Filip Gustavsson of late, Fleury is still the starter on this team. He's been historically good against Chicago, and this will be his first start in five days. Hopefully, the short rest has been good for him.

    On the forward front, Mats Zuccarello will look to continue to build on his recent tear. With six points in the last five games, Zuccarello has kept the first unit moving, with Kirill Kaprizov's recent point streak coming to an end. Freddy Gaudreau has been putting the puck in the net at an alarming rate recently, so here's hoping that continues as well.

    Also, let's appreciate Sammy Walker while he's still around, as Ryan Hartman is nearing his return, and Walker will likely be the odd man out.

    Puck drops at 7 p.m. Let's play hockey.

    Burning Questions

    Can Fleury bounce back against a flat-out lousy team?

    The last thing we want, especially after the end of last season, is another goaltending controversy. Gustavsson is making it complicated.

    We always had questions about what this tandem would look like during this season, and there have been plenty of ups and downs, but Fleury has been through a rough patch right when Gustavsson found his groove.

    We haven't entered controversy territory yet, but a bad start from Fleury against the worst offense in the NHL might be the beginning.

    Can Sammy Walker make his case?

    In the first couple of games, Walker looked like a revelation. He's eased up a little, but the Wild are getting healthier, and someone has to be forced out.

    It's a strange problem, but the Wild have too many NHL players. Can he force Bill Guerin's hand and stick around a little longer if he goes wild tonight?

    Can the Wild extend the home streak?

    The Xcel Energy Center has typically been a haven for the Wild. It's been even better of late, with five straight wins at home. Let's hope the crowd gets going early.

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