Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks Preview


As I am sure many of you have heard, Zach Parise‘s father, J.P. Parise, passed away late last night in his home. Read Dustin’s post, including the Minnesota Wild and the Parise’s family press release, here.

Wild Xtra writer, Giles Ferrell, wrote a piece on January 6th called “What Really Matters.” If you have a couple minutes, you should definitely give this a read, it definitely puts things into perspective.

I will get to the preview shortly, but I think it is more important to pay my respects to the Parise family first; today has been a very sad day indeed.

Watch Wild coach Mike Yeo on J.P. Parise below.

In Ferrell’s piece, I was able to relate heavily to his memories of watching hockey with his grandfather. When I grew up, my father and I watched “NHL 2 Night” on “The Deuce” (ESPN 2) and built model cars together; we never did finish the large model engine. This was a tradition that I always reflect on all the time and will never forget. That’s where my love and passion for hockey grew. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the first team I ever watched and Jaromir Jagr was the first player I remembered seeing on the TV during that Penguins game. To this day, he is my favorite hockey player of all time, and is still killing at age 42 (he will turn 43 on February 15th). Whenever I hear the iconic “NHL 2 Night” theme music it gives me goosebumps, those were some good times.

I imagine a lot of readers can relate like Giles and I can. That is the great thing about hockey, the tradition is special and the passion for the game is unlike any other. As you watch the Wild vs Blackhawks game tonight, think about all the great memories you have had playing hockey, watching hockey, or being around hockey with your loved ones.

Now to the preview. The Wild are in dire need of a winning streak and the next four games are against opponents who have had very good starts to their season. Those four games include tonight’s against the Blackhawks, Saturday against the Nashville Predators, Sunday in Chicago, and Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Wild can find a way to win even three out of these four games, that can lead to a big rally to close out the last half of the season; and I still believe the Minnesota Wild are capable of doing that.

Darcy Kuemper was placed on injured reserve today with a lower body injury which will keep him out for the next week, as reported by Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. Niklas Backstrom will be between the pipes tonight, goaltender John Curry, who was called up from Iowa, will back-up Backstrom. Marco Scandella will also miss tonight’s game with an upper body injury but it doesn’t look to be as serious, hopefully Scandella will be back for Saturday’s match-up against the Predators. Jordan Schroeder and Jon Blum were also called up. The Wild placed Stu Bickel on waivers.

Jan 3, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) plays in relief of goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) who was pulled during the second period against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the projected lineups for tonight’s game:


Zucker – Koivu – Pominville

Vanek – Haula – Schroeder

Niederreiter – Coyle – Fontaine

Cooke – Brodziak – Carter


Suter – Spurgeon

Brodin – Folin

Falk – Blum

Obviously, a lot of changes between the second, third, and fourth lines, but I think a lot of chemistry can be developed between those lines. The “Gopher” line was together for a small stretch earlier in the season and I like them on the second line. I like seeing Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle play together and I think Justin Fontaine can compliment those two well; I really like the way he has played lately. The fourth line will be very important tonight against the Blackhawks, I would expect a more physicality out of those guys tonight.

Here are my 3 bold predictions for tonight’s game.

1. Backstrom will be dominant. When I saw that Backstrom was playing tonight, I didn’t get that nervous, unsettling feeling in my stomach. He played outstanding in a win in Chicago last year and I think he wants this game more than anybody in a Wild sweater. Look for a big game from Backs tonight.

2. Jason Zucker becomes the Wild’s leading goal scorer. He was all over the place against the Sharks and I think he stays hot tonight, I like him alongside Mikko Koivu, and I think Koivu likes having him as well. Look for Zucker to make some big plays again tonight. I like him for a power-play goal and a helper.

3. Coyle finally gets his fourth goal of the season. Coyle has been so close to scoring a lot of goals lately, and I think he will get his fourth of the year tonight. He will get dirty in front of the net and will tip in a shot from the point by Suter. I think tonight can be the start of a hot stretch for Charlie, that would be a welcoming sign for the Wild.

Wild 4, Blackhawks 2