This weekend the Minnesota Wild will play a home-and-home series with an opponent for the first time this regular season.
And it comes against a familiar foe.
The Wild face the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time since the 2019 -20 season with a game at the United Center on Friday and a matchup at the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday with the latter being part of the Hockey Day in Minnesota celebration.
The Blackhawks won three Stanley Cup titles in the past decade while seemingly knocking the Wild out of the postseason each season along the way. But, the rivalry has swung in favor of Minnesota recently.
The Wild is 13-7-2 over the last 22 games against the Blackhawks and especially dominant in St. Paul. Minnesota is 7-2-2 in the last 11 matchups at the Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 43-29-5 and lost its last trip to the United Center 5-3 on Dec. 15, 2019.
Minnesota is coming off a shootout loss in Colorado on Monday but has collected points in its last four games. The Wild should get a boost with the anticipated return of Joel Eriksson Ek. The center has been sidelined for more than four weeks with an upper body injury and then a positive COVID-19 test last week just before he was expected to be back in the lineup.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon and goalie Cam Talbot also could play this weekend for a Wild team that was without nine regular players earlier this month due to injury and illness.
“We’ve got some bodies back and we can hopefully stay healthy now going forward,” Wild coach Dean Evason said during a media availability session on Thursday. “It will be nice to play some hockey games in a row and get us hopefully on a roll and in a groove.”
The Blackhawks are in seventh place in the Central Division but are 4-0-1 in the past five games. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have tormented the Wild for years and have 50 and 49 points, respectively, in head-to-head matchups with the Wild.
“I think what we have seen is their speed, certainly up front putting pressure on people and turning pucks over,” Evason said of the Blackhawks recent surge.
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The Wild vs. Blackhawks odds on WynnBET has the Wild favored by 1.5 goals at the United Center. The Wild are also the favorite on the moneyline at -130. Chicago is the underdog at +110. The over/under has the projected total goals at 5.5
Upcoming Wild schedule
Saturday, Jan 22: Chicago, 8 p.m., CST
Monday, Jan. 24: Montreal, 7 p.m. CST
Friday, Jan. 28: @New York Rangers, 7 p.m CST