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Blackhawks aim for No. 23 vs. Wild

by David Kalan

WILD (11-8-2) at BLACKHAWKS (19-0-3)


Last 10: Minnesota 6-3-1; Chicago 9-0-1

Season series: The Wild beat the Blackhawks in their only previous meeting of the season, a 3-2 shootout at Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 30.

Big story: The Wild can make a claim few other teams in the NHL can this season. They've beaten the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota was the first team to walk away from a game with Chicago with two points after outlasting them in a shootout back in January. Chicago will look to exact revenge on Minnesota, which is starting to surge up the standings, while looking to keep its historic 22-game point streak intact.

Team Scope:

Wild: After a big offseason that led to even bigger expectations for Minnesota, the Wild struggled over the season's first three weeks winning just six of their first 14 games. Since then, however, the Wild appear to finally have their ducks in a row. Minnesota has won five of its last seven games to climb up into the West's top eight, while goalie Niklas Backstrom has overcome an inconsistent start to the season to go 6-1-1 in his last eight starts.

After a 4-2 win against Edmonton on Sunday, Minnesota is now second in the Northwest Division and sits just two points back of first-place Vancouver. The Wild's schedule gets much tougher in the immediate future, with their next four games being against Chicago, Nashville, Vancouver and Anaheim, but if they can get through that stretch relatively unscathed -- or with an elusive regulation win against Chicago -- it could establish them as legitimate postseason contenders in the West.

Blackhawks: Little can be said about Chicago at this point that has not already been said. The Blackhawks' historic 19-0-3 run to start the 2012-13 season has put them in a class of their own over the first half of the season, particularly after their dramatic comeback Sunday afternoon against Detroit. After Patrick Kane forced overtime with a late score and later won the game in a shootout, Chicago seems firmly entrenched as that rare team that claims to only focus on the next game and does exactly that.

Even if the Blackhawks have carved out the greatest start in NHL history however, their one meeting with Minnesota so far this season remains a blemish for them. Their loss to the Wild may have come in a shootout, which is about as unpredictable as a moment in a hockey game gets, but the Blackhawks can still prevent Minnesota from claiming any psychological edge against them by getting a victory Tuesday night. Getting their 20th win of the season, which would also be a franchise-record tenth in a row, wouldn't hurt Chicago either.

Who's hot: Devin Setoguchi has a goal and four assists in his last four games for Minnesota. ... Kane's game-tying goal against Detroit would not have been possible with the quick stick of Viktor Stalberg, who picked up the primary assist on the play. Stalberg has two assists and two goals in his last four games.

Injury report: Dave Bolland (upper-body injury) is probably for Chicago. Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck has been on IR since Feb. 22 with a bruised thigh, and while his status for Tuesday night is still uncertain, there is talk that he could be back in the lineup soon.

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