As he heads into just his eighth day as coach, Denis Savard will try to guide the surging Chicago Blackhawks to their longest winning streak in nearly five years.
Chicago (10-12-2) goes for its fourth straight win under Savard when it visits the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night to play the slumping Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks haven't won four in a row since March 24-31, 2002, when Brian Sutter was behind the bench. That streak was capped by taking a home-and-home series from the Wild (13-11-2).
Minnesota, though, has won six of the last seven meetings and is 13-6 with one tie all-time against Chicago.
Though he is not signed for next season, Savard is making his case to be retained. General manager Dale Tallon said for Savard to be the coach of the Blackhawks in the future, he needs to get Chicago "close to the playoffs" this season.
The Blackhawks have made just one postseason appearance in the last nine years and are in 12th place in the Western Conference.
"I'm not worried about that," Savard said after replacing the fired Trent Yawney on Nov. 27. "I'm confident, and I'm confident in my players that we're going to be a good team here."
One player he's got confidence in is Jeff Hamilton. Against Nashville on Saturday, the third-year center scored his second goal of the game with 34 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 3. He completed his first career hat trick 59 seconds into overtime to give Chicago a 4-3 win.
"The coaching change is one thing, but to say this is the reason we are playing better reflects poorly on the players," Hamilton said. "Savard came in right away and told us what he expected. He was positive with everybody."
The Blackhawks have scored 11 goals in their last three games after recording 10 in their previous six.
"Savard has changed the lineup," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "They are a lot more aggressive. They have some momentum after beating Dallas, St. Louis and us."
Another player who seems to have benefited from the coaching change is Tony Salmelainen, who's scored one goal in each of the last three games after posting two assists in his first 14.
Oft-injured Tuomo Ruutu has points in each of his first three games under Savard, and five goals and an assist in his last seven games.
Ruutu had 23 goals and 44 points in 82 games as a rookie in 2003-04, but a back injury and partially severed right ankle tendon limited him to 15 games last season. He also missed the first 10 games this season with a sprained knee suffered in training camp.
Minnesota came away with a point in its last game, but dropped its fourth in a row Saturday, 4-3 to Dallas in a shootout. Rookie backup goaltender Niklas Backstrom finished with 21 saves, but gave up shootout goals to Sergei Zubov, Jussi Jokinen and Mike Ribeiro.
The Wild have four wins in 16 games after a team-best 6-0 start.
"It's frustrating," Minnesota forward Mark Parrish said. "You go out there and work your hardest and try to lay it all out there. Right now points are tough to come by for us."
Brian Rolston scored his team-high 13th goal in regulation and beat Stars goaltender Marty Turco with a slap shot in the shootout.
Minnesota needs Rolston to pick up the scoring slack with Marian Gaborik (groin) and Pavol Demitra (concussion) out with injuries, but he has just two assists in his last five home games.