Game Preview: Up and Down Chicago Blackhawks to Face Improving Minnesota Wild


Jan 8, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) is hooked by Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter (22) during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like every time that the Chicago Blackhawks win a game to inspire confidence they lose one to keep them in their month-long funk.  The calendar has now turned from January(where the Hawks were 6-7-0) to February, where the Hawks can sort of begin anew.  February gets kicked off with the Minnesota Wild, who are showing some real signs of life.

This will be the 4th game of the 5-game season series between the Hawks and Wild.  The Hawks have won all 3 of the previous meetings with Minnesota.  Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Central Time.  Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Wild.

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Looking at these numbers and seeing how the Hawks have fared throughout the season should make people feel better about their chances going forward.  Regardless of the recent cold-streak.

Offensively, the Hawks are an elite team and will have to solve a Wild defense that has been lackluster, overall this season.

Defensively, the Hawks are also elite and will be tasked with shutting down a Wild offensive attack that has been slightly below average this season.

On the Power Play, the Hawks have overall been slightly above average and will be up against a Minnesota Penalty Kill that has been great this season.

For the Hawks, on the Penalty Kill, they have been the best in the league overall.  Tonight, they will be up against a Wild Power Play that has been not-so-great this season.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great this season and they will be taking draws against a Minnesota squad that has been ever so slightly below average.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are elite and will be fighting for the puck against a Wild team that has been roughly average this season.

The overall numbers heavily favor the Hawks, but the Wild are desperate and riding a hot streak at the moment.  This isn’t the same Wild team that counted for 2 of the Hawks’ 6 victories in January.

The Wild is still in last place in the highly competitive Central Division with their 23-20-6 record, which is good for 52 points.  However, those 52 points would be good enough for 5th place in either Eastern Conference division, and they are still only 5 points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.  The Wild still have a lot of work to do, but after going 5-1-1 in their last 7 games, they are very much on the rise.

Zach Parise leads the way for Minnesota with 38 points in 42 games, including 21 goals this season.  Jason Pominville isn’t far behind Parise in points, and he has been a helper machine, this season, with 29 assists in 49 games.  Tomas Vanek has recorded 4 points in his last 4 games as he has helped propel the Wild offense during their current hot streak.  Despite only having one goal scored this season, Ryan Suter has still recorded 25 assists and is probably the most important player for Minnesota.  Suter usually puts in around 30 minutes per game and carries a heavy load on the blueline.

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Wild hot streak is newly acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk.  Dubnyk has gone 5-1 with a 1.71 Goals Against Average, a .935 Save Percentage and 2 shutouts in his 7 games with the Wild.

The Hawks are currently 31-17-2 with 64 points and are sitting in 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are 4 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and 6 points behind the 1st place Nashville Predators. 

Including Saturday’s shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks, Patrick Kane has recorded 8 points in his last 5 games as he continues his career-year.  On the other side of things, with only 2 points and at least as many defensive breakdowns that resulted in goals in the last 5 games, Jonathan Toews is in a bit of a cold streak.  It’s hard to imagine that lasting for very long though.

Speaking of cold streaks, since the All-Star break, Marian Hossa has yet to record a point and is a -3(for all that’s worth).  Again, don’t count on that continuing.  Toews, Hossa and their fellow linemate, Brandon Saad, all have cold steaks to snap out of, as the Hawks really need more production from their top-line.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if this line has a big night, tonight.  How about some positivity, eh?  Patrick Sharp has 6 points in the 3 games since the All-Star break.

In net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has been very good this season with a .920 Save Percentage in 32 games played.

After the loss in San Jose, the Hawks caught some R&R in Las Vegas on Super Bowl Sunday.  Perhaps that will be the medicine that the Hawks need to turn the Ice Show Trip around.  After tonight’s bout with the Wild, the Hawks have two more very tough divisional road games to wrap up the road trip.  Friday, they head to Winnipeg to take on the Jets and then on Sunday they head to St. Louis to face the Blues.  A good finish to the trip should do wonders for the Hawks.  One game at a time, though.  Beat. The.  Wild.

Go Hawks!