NHL Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks at Minnesota Wild
The last time the Minnesota Wild faced the Chicago Blackhawks, Marian Hossa was honored for his 1000th game, and the Blackhawks won a franchise-best tenth game in a row. Things are very different for the two teams, with new faces and missing ones, but that doesn’t make the game any less important.
The Blackhawks just clinched the first playoff spot for the postseason, and they want to prove that they’re worthy of a spot higher than the seventh place spot they’re guaranteed at the least. They’ll be without Dave Bolland again, as he’s out with a lower-body injury and is still day-to-day. However, fans can rejoice, because Patrick Sharp will be back on the bench for the game. Like Hossa, Sharp’s presence while injured has been sorely missed.
After sitting atop the Northwest Division and having a stellar record in March, the Wild have slid to second place behind the Vancouver Canucks and are desperate to capture a playoff berth for the first time in five years. Picking up Jason Pominville at the trade deadline did help in their recent win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, which broke a three-game losing streak. Unfortunately, they won’t have Dany Heatley who will miss the rest of the season due to shoulder surgery, and Matt Cullen is questionable for the game.
The Wild’s hopes for winning lie in their home record, which is 13-4-1, and that includes their first meeting with the Blackhawks back in January. The Blackhawks have a 15-2-2 road record, so the Wild should worry about staying on their guard, especially when coach Joel Quenneville shakes up his lines. Doing that worked for the Blackhawks on Sunday against the Nashville Predators, especially when he put Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the same line.
One team has a sure place in the postseason, while the other is trying to keep its postseason hopes alive. Neither of them will make this an easy game, and the two points at stake will be well and truly earned at the end of the night.