Blackhawks, Wild look to put win streaks together
Monday, 10.26.2009 / 7:00 PM
WILD (3-7-0) at BLACKHAWKS (6-3-1)
Season Series: Minnesota took three of four from Chicago last season, including the last meeting, a 2-1 win for the Wild on Feb. 22.
Big Story: The Hawks are hoping to wrap up their current homestand with a win after a 1-2 start. The Wild enter the United Center looking to build on an overtime win over Carolina on Saturday and hoping to snap an 0-7-0 skid on the road this season.
Wild: In its first year without Jacques Lemaire, the Wild struggled to adapt to new coach Todd Richard's more up-tempo offense, losing six of its first seven. But Minnesota may finally be getting it together. The Wild has won two of its last three, with those wins coming over one of last season's final four entrants, Carolina, and the current top team in the west, Colorado.
Of course, there is no guarantee Minnesota is completely on the upswing. The Wild has not won in regulation yet this season, and its game-winner from Saturday was scored by Cal Clutterbuck, a man more known for his physical play than his scoring. Still, a third win in four games would provide the Wild some nice momentum to help turn the corner.
Blackhawks: Chicago hasn't felt quite like home lately for the Blackhawks, who lost the first two games of their current homestand. The Hawks may have plugged the leak with a 2-0 win over Nashville Saturday, but still need a win to salvage a split of the four straight at the UC. They did get a confidence boost against the Predators, as Cristobal Huet finally delivered the performance he was signed for with a 27-save shutout. While Chicago's defense certainly made his night easier, Huet still turned in a number of crucial stops to keep Nashville off the board.
"I think it was good for me to regroup myself a little bit," Huet said. "I think I was more aggressive, more desperate. I saw the puck pretty well. I have to keep doing that the rest of the season."
The performance was by far Huet's best of the season, and with the club still unsure if young stalwarts Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook will be able to play Monday, it would be a boon to have a confident No. 1 between the pipes.
Who's Hot: Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien has points in four of his last six games, including three goals. Minnesota's Andrew Brunette is running at nearly a point-per-game pace with six goals and three assists on the season.
Injury Report: Toews and Seabrook are still questionable for Chicago with upper-body injuries. Minnesota's Derek Boogaard is also questionable for Monday.
Stat Pack: In its last two seasons under Lemaire, the Wild averaged 2.68 and 2.61 goals per game. In its first 10 games under Richards, Minnesota is averaging only 2.10 goals per game, good for 27th in the League. For Minnesota to challenge for a playoff spot, it will need to match, if not exceed, its offensive output of those past two seasons.
Puck Drop: While the Hawks still sit in first place in the Central Division, Columbus is nipping at Chicago's heels, and it's only a matter of time before the Red Wings make a run at the top of the standings. With the competitiveness of the Hawks' division, nearly every point is crucial. Chicago will likely view this as a game it should win, but with Minnesota coming off an uplifting victory, the Wild may be a bigger challenge than its spot in the Northwest cellar would indicate. There is plenty of time for Minnesota to change its fortunes, and Monday's visit to the Windy City is as good an opportunity as any to make a statement.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com