Preview: Blackhawks at Wild
It’s been an up-and-down 2 1/2 weeks for the Chicago Blackhawks, who are coming off one of their most frustrating performances of the season.
They aren’t likely to get much sympathy from the slumping Minnesota Wild.
Chicago tries to continue its recent success with a visit to the Wild as these Central Division opponents meet Thursday night.
The Blackhawks (26-12-2) were riding high after winning eight straight and 10 of 11, but things haven’t gone as smoothly during a 4-3-1 stretch. Chicago leads the league with a 2.15 goals-against average but has surrendered 20 goals over its last six games.
The Blackhawks are looking to bounce back following Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Colorado. Chicago recorded a season-high 54 shots but was blanked by Semyon Varlamov in suffering its first shutout since Nov. 2.
Corey Crawford allowed both goals in the opening 1:17. The Blackhawks have given up the first goal in five straight games.
"It’s frustrating," forward Patrick Sharp told the team’s official website. "I think we can do a better job of getting to the net. I think the most frustrating part is the way we started the game again. Being down 2-0 quick like that changes the whole way the game is going to be played from there on out. We did generate a lot of shots on net. The second and third opportunities are where we needed to capitalize."
Chicago now heads out on the road, where it’s dropped three of four.
"You worry about your next game and next shift as a player," coach Joel Quenneville said. "That’s your objective to bring the focus, bring the motivation of doing the right things and that’s what it’s all about."
The Blackhawks haven’t visited the Twin Cities since eliminating the Wild with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 6 of last year’s Western Conference semifinals. Chicago took this season’s first meeting 5-3 on Dec. 16 as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook each recorded a goal and two assists. The Blackhawks have taken three straight and 13 of 19 matchups, including playoffs. Kane has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak in the series, giving him 21 points in his last 21 regular-season meetings.
Minnesota (18-15-5) has managed 26 goals during a 2-4-4 slump. The Wild suffered a 7-1 loss at Dallas on Saturday before falling 4-3 in overtime to San Jose on Tuesday, their fourth OT defeat – all coming in the past nine contests – and fifth loss overall in six home games.
"We can hang our heads, we can feel sorry for ourselves, we can point fingers," coach Mike Yeo told the team’s official website. "But those types of things are not the types of things that winners do and those types of things do not help you get out of something like this."
Yeo expressed further displeasure after what he deemed a disappointing practice Wednesday.
"He’s frustrated just as many guys in here," forward Thomas Vanek said. "I think we’ll be OK. I think it was maybe needed. We had a terrible game in Dallas; I thought we responded pretty well. We’ll respond again (Thursday) and play hard."
Zach Parise, tied for the team lead with 30 points, is uncertain to be available after missing Tuesday’s game to be with his ailing father – former NHL player J.P. Parise – who has lung cancer.
Parise has just five points in 16 regular-season games against the Blackhawks.