Both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild have been playing good hockey as of late and are trying to rack up as many standing points as possible.
With their recent dominance of the Wild, the Blackhawks would appear to have the better chance of getting back to winning as the teams meet Tuesday night at the United Center.
Chicago (26-19-4) was 5-0-1 in its previous six games before a 4-1 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday in a rematch of the Stanley Cup finals. Marian Hossa tallied the Blackhawks’ goal on a third-period penalty shot, becoming the franchise’s first player to score in that fashion at the United Center.
The loss also denied the team a season-high fifth straight home win.
“We obviously didn’t bring the speed and tempo to our game that we did (in a 4-1 win over Detroit on Saturday),” captain Jonathan Toews said. “We were too easy to defend. I think we weren’t on the same page with each other.”
Minnesota, meanwhile, had its three-game win streak snapped Saturday night with a 4-3 loss at San Jose. The Wild (24-19-8) got within a goal two times after falling behind 3-1 early in the second period, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
Minnesota, which had outscored opponents 14-1 over its previous three games, allowed Niklas Backstrom to face a season-high 42 shots in his second game back from a hip injury
“We weren’t very crisp and we didn’t handle the puck very well,” defenseman Clayton Stoner said. “They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle that. Nobody is happy with that performance.”
The Wild probably haven’t been happy with most of their performances against the Blackhawks over the past two seasons, having been outscored 19-8 while losing four of five matchups.
The Wild earned their lone win – 6-5 in a shootout Jan. 9, 2010 – by rallying from a 5-1 deficit. They failed to overcome an early 2-0 deficit in a 3-1 home loss Oct. 30.
Chicago’s Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist in that victory, and Marty Turco made 25 saves while outdueling Backstrom.
Turco, who has since lost his starting job to Corey Crawford, might get the chance to play given his dominance against Minnesota. He is 15-4-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average in his career against the Wild and is 6-0-0 in his last seven appearances.
With both teams fighting for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference, the Blackhawks could use a strong performance from either Turco or Crawford. Chicago was seventh in the West after Sunday’s loss, while Minnesota was three points behind the Blackhawks in 10th.
Backstrom is 0-3-0 with a 3.84 GAA in his last four starts against Chicago. Jose Theodore, who hasn’t played since Jan. 11 because of a hip injury, is 3-1-1 with a 1.89 GAA in his last five matchups with the Blackhawks.
Whoever starts for the Wild could get help from former Chicago player Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu, who have combined for six goals over the past four games. Matt Cullen has two goals and four assists while recording a point in each contest.
The Blackhawks’ Dave Bolland has five goals and three assists over the past six games but has scored once in his past seven matchups with Minnesota.
Chicago is searching for a series-high third straight home win over the Wild.
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