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NHL Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks Barely Avoid Shutout, Still Lose to Minnesota Wild

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight was the second of a back-to-back for the Chicago Blackhawks. Last night, they lost a heart breaker in a shootout against the Detroit Red Wings. Tonight, they had to play their division rivals Minnesota Wild. The Hawks had no time to feel sorry for themselves. But things got off to a bad start before the game even started, and they found themselves in a 2-0 hole before they could recover in what is easily one of the most disappointing losses of the year.

Veteran defenseman Duncan Keith was a scratch for the game because he had the stomach flu. That immediately put the Hawks at a disadvantage. Indeed, without Keith’s leadership it seemed as if the Hawks were lost and confused for much of the night. Meanwhile, the Wild got Zach Parise back from a foot injury. However, Josh Harding was also injured and he was replaced by Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper showed no signs of nervousness as he stopped 33 of 34 shots from the Hawks.

Antti Raanta was just as impressive, but Jason Pominville and Matt Cooke slipped a pair of goals past Raanta that will likely haunt him until the next game. The Hawks tried and tried to score on Kuemper, but their offense was off. It’s obvious that Keith’s sickness affected the Hawks. Even a good chance by Marian Hossa was mishandled and cost them a vital goal. However, Patrick Kane did score his first goal of the calendar year. Without Keith, the Hawks were slow and sluggish on offense.

It needs to be said that this was a disappointing game. The Hawks had so many chances, but they didn’t take advantage of them. It seems as if head coach Joel Quenneville‘s line combinations are not working, and something will have to change in order to generate offense. It’s difficult to see what Quenneville will do for the Hawks’ next game on Sunday, but it’s likely he might change some lines up.

The Hawks will likely have to make some more changes to the lineup come Sunday. Perhaps once Keith returns, he’ll inject that much-needed leadership and energy into the team that they sorely missed tonight. The Hawks needed a win after the loss against the Red Wings, but they’ll end this road trip licking their wounds. Still, despite their struggles of late, it’s amazing this is only their second regulation loss in 18 days.

The Hawks will need to stay focused as they welcome the red-hot Winnipeg Jets to the United Center. With two weeks until the Olympics, the Hawks will need to fix their problems and fast.

Paul Chancey is a Chicago Blackhawks writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ChanceyPaul and add him to your network at Google+.