NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Wednesday, March 31st
(All times eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (46-22-7) at Minnesota Wild (37-33-6), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to avoid their longest
losing streak of the season when they visit the Minnesota Wild for tonight's
clash at Xcel Energy Center.
The Blackhawks have already clinched a spot in the Western Conference
playoffs, but have lost three straight and seven of their last nine outings.
Chicago is still five points ahead of Nashville for the Central Division lead
and will use one of its three games in hand over the Predators tonight.
Chicago, which is five points behind San Jose for the conference lead, last
lost four in a row during a five-game slide from March 13-20 of last season.
The Wild, meanwhile, are nine points out of a playoff spot in the West and
have been all but officially eliminated from postseason contention.
Chicago was defeated Tuesday night in St. Louis, dropping a 4-2 decision to
the Blues, who received two goals and an assist from Alexander Steen.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa scored for the Blackhawks, who lost for the
fourth time in five games but maintained their five-point lead over Nashville
in the Central Division after the Preds lost to the Kings.
Antti Niemi let in four goals on 30 shots in defeat.
"I thought the approach was good tonight. It's a sign there's some positive
things could come," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said.
Cristobal Huet is expected to get the start in net for Chicago, making his
first appearance since yielding seven goals in an 8-3 loss to Columbus on
Thursday. Huet is 4-2-2 with a tie in nine career games against the Wild.
Tonight marks the middle portion of a three-game road trip for the Blackhawks,
who are 19-14-4 as the guest this year.
Minnesota was able to play spoiler in its last game, edging the playoff
hopeful Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
Martin Havlat scored the game-winning goal near the midway point of the third
period, lifting the Wild to the 3-2 home win.
Owen Nolan and Brent Burns also scored for the Wild, who bounced back from a
6-2 defeat to the Red Wings on Friday. Niklas Backstrom made 29 saves for the
"Obviously, these games don't mean much for us right now," Wild defenseman
Greg Zanon said. "It's definitely a confidence builder. We're almost playing
for next year, trying to find a good identity to start the year off."
The Wild have been a fantastic home team this year, posting a 25-10-3 record
in St. Paul. Minnesota is playing the middle test of a three-game homestand
tonight and will close the residency Friday against San Jose.
On the injury front, Wild defenseman Cam Barker, who was traded from Chicago
in February, could miss his first shot at facing his former team. The third
overall pick by Chicago in the 2004 draft, Barker has sat out the last two
games with an ankle injury. He has six points in 14 games since joining
Chicago has won two of three from the Wild this year and tonight marks the end
of the regular-season series. The Blackhawks have won five of nine overall in
the series, but they have lost two of three and 11 of their last 13 in St.
03/31 10:51:48 ET