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Blackhawks try to break slump in Minnesota

by John Kreiser

BLACKHAWKS (46-22-7) at WILD (37-33-6)

Last 10 -- Chicago 3-5-2; Minnesota 6-4-0

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Hawks won the first two in Chicago and appeared to be on the way to an easy victory at the XcelEnergyCenter on Jan. 9, leading 5-1 in the third period -- only to see Minnesota rally for a 6-5 shootout victory.

Big story -- The Hawks are headed to the Central Division title and no worse than the No. 2 seed in the West -- but they're not exactly finishing with a flourish. Wednesday's 4-2 loss at St. Louis was Chicago's third in a row, matching the Hawks' season high, and they've dropped seven of their last nine. The Wild are all but eliminated from the playoff race, but they've won 25 times at home and are coming off a 3-2 win over Los Angeles.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- The Hawks' play since the Olympic break may be making Chicago fans nervous, but forward Patrick Sharp says the players are still confident.

"It might sound stupid to someone on the outside looking in to say we're confident, but we are," said Sharp, who extended his point streak to five games with his second goal in as many games. "We're going to keep battling."

Wild -- Minnesota starts play nine points out of a playoff spot, primarily because the Wild got off to a slow start that has forced them to play catch-up. But the Wild continue to play hard, as the Kings found out on Monday.

"It's pride. It's also our jobs. We just have to keep going," said forward Owen Nolan, who has goals in back-to-back games after scoring against Los Angeles.

Who's hot -- Marian Hossa has three goals in the Hawks' three games against the Wild. Sharp has a five-game scoring streak with 3 goals and 2 assists.

Injury report -- The Hawks are still without defensemen Kim Johnsson (concussion) and Brian Campbell (broken collarbone). … Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding won't be back this season due to a hip injury that has plagued him for several weeks.

Stat pack -- One reason for Chicago's problems has been a power outage with the man advantage. The Hawks were 0-for-2 in the loss at St. Louis, dropping them to 4-for-40 in their last 11 games. … The Blackhawks are one point away from consecutive 100-point seasons for the first time since 1970-72.

Puck drop -- Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is doing his best to keep his team's spirits up during its current struggles

"Looking at it in the right frame of mind is important, trying to be positive," Quenneville said after Tuesday's loss. "If there is anything positive, it's that the pace of our game was quicker and better, more effective. We have to capture some of that confidence and energy in our play."

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