Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Set to Face Minnesota Wild for the 2nd Time in 3 Nights


Dec 16, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) is defended by Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund (64) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks just played the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, but when you play an 82-game schedule, quirks like this are to be expected.  However, tonight’s game will be played in Chicago.

This will be the 3rd game of the 5-game season series between the Hawks and Wild.  The Hawks have owned the series thus far as they have won both previous games.  Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM.  The game can be seen on WGN-Chicago as well as NBCSN.  Tonight’s game can be listened to on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statisitcal breakdown of the Hawks and Wild

[table id=113 /]

Overall offensively, this season, the Hawks have been just shy of elite while the Wild have been very lackluster defensively.

Defensively, the Hawks have been elite all season and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a Wild offensive attack that has been average. this season.

On the Power Play, the Hawks boast an average but improving attack, but tonight they will be facing a very good Minnesota Penalty Kill.

For the Hawks, on the Penalty Kill, they have been historically elite, this season, and will be tasked with quelling a very lackluster Wild Power Play.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been very good, and tonight they will be taking draws against a Minnesota team that has been slightly below average.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are typically an elite team and have been throughout the season.  However, they have been anything but elite, in puck-possession, the last 2 games.  They will be fighting for the puck with a solidly successful possession team, in the Wild.

On paper, the advantage goes to the Hawks.  However, the last two games, including Thursday’s against the Wild, the Hawks have not been excelling in the areas that have made them successful.  The Wild will be hungry, as they were on Thursday, when they battled hard and outplayed the Hawks, but ultimately lost to their division rivals on their home-ice.  The Hawks are hold a 2-3-0 record in January, with all 3 losses coming on the road and both wins have come at home.

The Wild currently hold a 18-17-5 record, which is good for 41 points and has them mired in last place in the Central Division.  After Thursday’s loss to the Hawks, the Wild fell 3-1 to the Nashville Predators, last night.  The struggling Wild have been piling up shots and chances, but have nothing to show for it.  Zach Parise returned to the lineup, last night, and should provide a dramatic boost to Minnesota’s chances.  Jason Pominville leads Minnesota in points, this season, with 32 in 39 games played.  Last night, Charlie Coyle scored just his 2nd goal in 35 games.  Also not producing as much as expected, Nino Niederreiter hasn’t scored in 11 games, but he still has managed to net 14, this season.  Regardless of having played just last night, expect superstar defenseman, Ryan Suter, to be on the ice for roughly half of the game.

In net for the Wild will be Niklas Backstrom.  The veteran Backstrom has struggled this season to the tune of an .893 Save Percentage in 15 games played.

The Hawks, with their record of 27-13-2 and 56 points are in 2nd place in the Central Division.  They are now 4 points behind the Central leading Nashville Predators.  While the Hawks, as a team, appear to be cold as the ice in which they play on, the same cannot be said about Brandon Saad.  Saad scored the Hawks only 2 goals against the Edmonton Oilers, and despite a 3-game without a point streak, Saad has 4 points in his last 5 games.  Of course, Patrick Kane is also on fire, but he has been all season, and it’s almost not even noteworthy.  Hawks fans are indeed spoiled.  Similarly to Kane, Jonathan Toews has quietly put up 5 points in the last 5 games, but his steady production has been the norm throughout his career.  Teuvo Teravainen will indeed be in the lineup tonight.

In net for the Hawks, will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford was excellent on Thursday in Minnesota and appears to be getting back into his groove.

Slumps happen, and this slump isn’t even that bad.  However, losing to a last-place team like Edmonton and being out-played by another last-place team, in Minnesota is uncomfortable for Hawks fans who are used to seeing their team dominate.  It’s the dog days of the season, and this is what happens to good teams.  Everything will be okay.

Go Hawks!