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Blackhawks Look To Tame Wild

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Niklas Hjalmarsson (photo credit: Getty Images)

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(WSCR) – Everyone saw how losing Marian Hossa would affect the team Friday night against the Oilers. After scrambling to learn from their mistakes in the 7-4 loss, the team looks for a victory against the Wild.

By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO

STATS Writer

(AP) — Losing Marian Hossa was expected to be a blow to the Chicago Blackhawks‘ offensive play. Now, they’re scrambling to shore up their sloppy play in the defensive zone.

The Blackhawks look to rebound from their worst defensive performance of the season when they face the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

Chicago (6-5-1) lost Hossa for two weeks after the star right wing sustained an upper-body injury in a collision with Los Angeles’ Jarret Stoll in Wednesday’s 3-1 victory. The injury cost the Blackhawks one of their top scorers, as Hossa has seven goals and four assists.

Scoring, though, was not the issue in a 7-4 defeat Friday to visiting Edmonton, Chicago’s third loss in four games. Marty Turco was pulled after giving up four goals on 12 shots in the first period Friday, and backup Corey Crawford wasn’t much better in allowing two tallies on nine attempts.

Turco, who is 5-2-1 with a 2.82 goals-against average, had won five of his six previous starts before Friday’s loss. He appeared to be settling in as the Blackhawks’ starter during that stretch after they controversially allowed Antti Niemi – one of the heroes of last summer’s Stanley Cup championship – to join San Jose as a free agent.

Crawford has struggled in a limited role, going 1-3-0 with a 3.15 GAA.

The Blackhawks may opt to go with Turco against the Wild (4-3-2). He’s 14-4-1 with a 2.02 GAA in 22 career meetings, winning the last four with a 1.98 GAA.

Despite Chicago’s potentially growing goaltending issues, Patrick Sharp continued his torrid start. He extended his goal-scoring streak to four games and added two assists, giving him team highs of 10 goals and 15 points.

Sharp, though, has two goals and two assists in 16 games against Minnesota.

The Blackhawks went 3-0-1 against the Wild last season.

Minnesota is looking to build on Thursday’s 2-1 win over Washington, holding the high-scoring Capitals to 22 shots.

“We came out early and played well to grab an early lead. More importantly, we found a way to play with the lead late,” said right wing Chuck Kobasew, who scored his first goal of the season Thursday.

Niklas Backstrom has been superb in his last four starts, going 3-0-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average after making 21 saves Thursday. He’s given up more than two goals just twice in eight games, but has a 4.53 GAA in his last three starts against Chicago, losing two and getting pulled in another.

Minnesota could use some better production on the power play. The unit has converted 1 of 12 chances over the last three games after a stunning 12 of 27 stretch over the previous six.

The Wild’s power play could get a boost if Cam Barker can return from a groin injury, which has sidelined him for three games.

The defenseman has two of his three assists on the power play.

Barker’s return would also be his first game against the Blackhawks since being sent to Minnesota in a three-player deal in February. He was the third overall pick by Chicago in 2004, and spent parts of four injury-riddled seasons with the club.

Minnesota is expected to be without right wing Antti Miettinen, who is reportedly being evaluated for a possible concussion after a hit by Dustin Brown in Monday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings.

Four of Miettinen’s six points have come on the power play.

Updated October 30, 2010

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