ST. PAUL, Minn. — In the past few years, it hasn’t been uncommon for the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks to battle in the playoffs. This year, they’re battling just to try to get to the playoffs.
The Blackhawks travel to Minnesota for a Saturday evening game having lost four in a row. Their chance of making the postseason are sinking — one site, sportsclubstats.com, gives Chicago less than a 5 percent chance of getting to the playoffs and they don’t control their own destiny.
It’s a stark departure from the norm for Chicago, which has made nine straight trips to the postseason and has won three Stanley Cups during that span. The playoff hopes took another blow Thursday with a home loss to the Dallas Stars.
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“We’re having a hard time putting the puck in the net and little mistakes are costing us,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “For whatever reason, it’s hard to recover.”
For Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, there’s a sense that the team is running out of time. As Chicago heads out on a three-game road trip, he’s asking players to focus solely on finding points any way they can.
“Every game is big for us,” Quenneville said. “Right now, we’re in a stretch where everybody whether they’re unhappy or they’re not confident, whether they’re disappointed, they’re frustrated, they’re whatever and all of the above, let’s go play one game here on the road and start it off in a positive way and keep going.”
The Wild, on the bubble for the final Western Conference playoff spot, are in the midst of a five-game homestand that they know is vital to their playoff chances. It started on a disappointing note Thursday when they surrendered a 3-0 lead to Arizona — the NHL’s worst team — and lost in overtime.
“Well, that’s not good enough. Pretty simple. That was the message after the game and the message from here on in,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “You’re fighting for your playoff lives and you come up and you blow a three-nothing lead to a team that isn’t going to be in the playoffs. You can’t be successful if you do that.”
Minnesota is getting used to life without mainstay defenseman Jonas Brodin, who is out at least three weeks with a broken hand.
On Thursday, the Wild traded two minor league forwards to New Jersey and acquired defenseman Viktor Loov. Originally drafted by Toronto, Loov has played four NHL games and was expected to be playing for Minnesota’s AHL team in Iowa, but on Friday he practiced with the NHL club and could make his Wild debut on Saturday.
Left winger Zach Parise just missed an overtime scoring chance for the Wild on Thursday but can be excused if his head was elsewhere. On Thursday morning, his third child arrived, a boy they named Theodore Jean-Paul, after Parise’s late father, J.P.
“The middle name is pretty self-explanatory,” Parise said. “We had that picked out way before any of it, we were just looking for a first name that flowed with it. But I don’t have to explain how important my dad was to me and to our family, so that was a no-brainer.”