Wild Tuesday: Chicago presents ultimate test

TUESDAY’S STORY LINES: The Minnesota Wild know the challenge at hand Tuesday night at the Madhouse on Madison. Minnesota is trying to halt Chicago’s impressive 22-game point streak, the longest ever to start an NHL season.

The Blackhawks have yet to lose in regulation. They do have three shootout losses, with one of those — Chicago’s first defeat of the season — coming at the hands the Wild on Jan. 30. 

Since that victory, the Wild have come a long way. Forward Zach Parise said the team struggled to find an identity at the beginning of the season with all the new faces, but it has found itself of late and that is showing on the ice. Minnesota is 7-3-1 in its last 11 games, and Tuesday’s showdown with the best team in the NHL will be a good measuring stick for the Wild. 
“We know that we have to be sharp, and it is a good test for us to see where we are at. We think we have been playing pretty well, but it will be a good measure for us to play the top team in the league,” Parise said.
The Blackhawks, who are 12-0-3 in one-goal games, have found a variety of ways to win during their amazing streak.
“They win 1-0 games, or they find ways defensively when the offense isn’t going to play really well,” Parise said. “That is the sign of a really good team; they can beat you a bunch of different ways.”
The Blackhawks have managed to avoid getting caught up in the media hype during their streak. The Wild will have to do the same to be successful in a very important game. Take a glance at the Western Conference standings and only two points separate the third and 10th spots.  The fight for a playoff position is going to be a battle in which every game is important.
“Every day is a big game,” coach Mike Yeo said. “I think the key for us is not getting caught up in this. I am sure a lot people like to have a great story, and that is great, but for us this is about coming to the rink and finding a way get two points against a great hockey team and most importantly for us it’s about continuing to do what we have done and that’s becoming a better hockey team.”
BACKSTROM VS. CRAWFORD: Niklas Backstrom, who is 6-1-1 with a 1.70 GAA in his last eight starts, will be in the net for the Wild. Corey Crawford, who is 10-0-3 this season with a league-best 1.41 GAA, will go for the Hawks.

HE SAID IT: “Our defense has improved, our goaltending has been outstanding, and you get the contribution up front. Basically, our team game has been consistent from start to finish, particularly when the games are on the line late, and I think that has helped us,” – Chicago coach Joel Quenneville on his team’s success