Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks


Just when we all thought the 2014-15 season might be a scratch and it was back to the proverbial off-season drawing board, the Minnesota Wild have pumped the brakes and clawed back within striking distance in the Western Conference playoff race.

After three straight victories against former division rivals after the All-star break, Minnesota is now only 5 points outside of the playoff picture and chasing three teams in between.

Unfortunately for the Wild, tonight’s opponent is a completely different monster as the Chicago Blackhawks are in town.

Primetime tonight, folks. Puck drops at 7:00 CST on NBCSN and can be heard on 100.3 KFAN.

Zach Parise has been on an absolute tear lately. His 7 goals in the past 7 games have essentially changed the fate of the Wild in the standings. His presence on the team has expanded even more since his dental incident against the Oilers last week.

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Devan Dubnyk has essentially seized the starting gig for the Minnesota Wild for the foreseeable future. There were plenty of questions about goaltending after Darcy Kuemper was sent to the minors, but those may have been answered after three stellar performances from Doobie. His impressive run also earned him the NHL’s third star of the week after making 85 of 88 saves during the trip through Western Canada. The Wild are 5-1-1 with Dubnyk at the helm as he has semi-solidified the back end.

It looks like Matt Cooke sustained a whole lot more than a few knicks during the roadtrip. Star Tribune writer Michael Russo is reporting that he could miss significant time and possibly even the rest of the season.

That would be a huge blow as Cooke has played his third and fourth line role really well since his return from injury a few weeks ago.

The Wild held an optional practice Monday. News, notes, and quotes can be found here.

For Chicago, it’s been much more of a grind than in recent years. The Blackhawks are resting in 5th place in the Western Conference and have been a very hum-ho 5-5 in their last 10 contests. That being said, Chicago is still 31-17-2 with 64 points.

Look no further than the usual suspects for players to watch tonight for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane is having an MVP-type season statistically with 25 goals and 31 assists while premier two-way forward Jonathan Toews is close behind with 15 goals and 27 assists.

What’s arguably more impressive are the team statistics for the Chicago Blackhawks. They rank 5th in the NHL with 3.0 GPG while a trio of goalies led by Corey Crawford have combined to allow just 2.3 GAA and .932 SV%. The powerplay is unsurprisingly lethal at 18.6% and they are the owners of the best penalty kill in the league at 87.6%. In other words, another fantastic outing by Dubnyk will be a necessity.

Wild Lines:

Parise – Granlund – Vanek

Zucker – Koivu – Pominville

Niederreiter – Coyle – Schroeder

Carter – Haula – Brodziak

Goalie: Dubnyk

Blackhawks Lines:

Saad – Toews – Hossa

Sharp – Richards – Kane

Bickell – Shaw – Teravainen

Nordstrom – Kruger – Smith

Goalie: Crawford