Blackhawks-Wild Preview

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.