National Hockey League
Wild-Blackhawks Preview
National Hockey League

Wild-Blackhawks Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 7:17 p.m. ET

The Chicago Blackhawks beat up on a last-place squad with nothing more than pride to play for and snapped out of their slump.

Solving Minnesota has been much more difficult.

The Wild have won all three meetings this season against the club that knocked them out of the playoffs the past three years, and they'll look to improve their chances of returning to the postseason when they visit the United Center on Sunday night.

Chicago (42-24-6) has slipped to third in the Central Division while going 6-8-2 since Feb. 9, a stretch that includes a 3-5-1 mark at home. It dropped four in a row before winning 4-0 at Western Conference-worst Winnipeg on Friday.


NHL points leader Patrick Kane notched his 39th goal and 53rd assist to help the Blackhawks match their goal total from their previous three games.

''Looking at a four-game slide there, maybe it's better it happens now rather than later in the season and playoffs and then you're done,'' Kane said. ''We can learn from this. And, you know, if we lose one or two down the road here we can look back on this situation as a team and as a group and realize how we got ourselves out of it.''

Scott Darling made 28 saves in his second straight start in place of Corey Crawford, who didn't make the trip and is considered day to day with an upper-body injury.

"I think (Darling) needed a game like that, and we needed a win like that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was great for him. We've had a tough stretch. We have lost a ton of ground, and teams are right around us."

Minnesota (33-28-11) is 13 points back of Chicago, but that disparity hasn't shown through in head-to-head meetings. The Wild have held the Blackhawks to one goal in each of the last two matchups and trounced them 6-1 outdoors in the Stadium Series on Feb. 21.

They've made three consecutive playoff appearances, only to be knocked out by Chicago each time - including last year's second-round sweep. Minnesota has gone 9-6-1 since replacing Mike Yeo with former Blackhawks assistant John Torchetti and trails Colorado by a point for the West's final playoff spot.

It dropped four of its previous five before Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise scored in the shootout for a 3-2 win over Carolina on Saturday. Thomas Vanek, who hasn't scored in his last 10 games, was a healthy scratch for the third time this season.

''Obviously for us, everything is about winning right now,'' said Jason Zucker, who scored in the third. ''Making sure we're doing the right things to get these wins and get these points. Obviously it felt good to get that win.''

Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves to bounce back from Thursday's loss to the New Jersey, when he allowed three goals on eight shots and was pulled toward the end of the first period. He has a .935 save percentage while winning each meeting with Chicago this season, and Torchetti could elect to play him on back-to-back days with backup Darcy Kuemper nursing an upper-body injury.

Quenneville hasn't said if Crawford, who has lost both of his starts this season against the Wild, will be ready to go. He allowed 11 goals while losing his last three starts before the injury.

Kane has 10 goals and nine assists while recording at least a point in 12 of his last 13 against Minnesota, including the playoffs.


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