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Blackhawks, Wild hope to build off big victories

by Brian Hedger
WILD (22-15-6) at BLACKHAWKS (25-13-5)

TV: FS-North (HD), CSN-Chicago

LAST 10:
Minnesota 2-7-1; Chicago 4-5-1

Season series:
This will be the second of four games between Chicago and Minnesota. The Blackhawks won the first one 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 14 at Xcel Energy Center. Patrick Kane ended the shootout with a highlight-reel, multi-deke goal in which he slowed his approach to a near crawl before faking out goalie Niklas Backstrom and scoring on the forehand.

Big story:
Chicago stopped a four-game skid on Tuesday night at home against Columbus, but that was just the first game without star forward Patrick Sharp -- whose upper-body injury (believed to be a wrist fracture) may keep him out up to four weeks. The Hawks will miss Sharp's offense while he's out, but showed they are capable of getting goals from secondary scorers like their three rookies, checking-line center Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg -- who tallied his first career hat trick against the Blue Jackets. The Wild also got a boost on Tuesday to help get past recent struggles by beating the San Jose Sharks in a shootout after coughing up a two-goal lead late in the third period.

Team Scope:

Wild: Almost as impressive as regrouping to beat the Sharks in the shootout was the fact the Wild did it without Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Devin Setoguchi, two of their top offensive threats. Bouchard is out with a concussion, but Setoguchi was a healthy scratch after reportedly missing a team meeting on Tuesday. Minnesota had won just once in its previous 12 games, going 1-8-3 over that span, so getting back on the winning side of the ledger felt like a major relief to a team that had won seven straight before the losing started. The Wild, who once topped the Western Conference standings, had also dropped their last three shootouts coming into Tuesday's game.

"We got the feeling back that this is who we are," Cal Clutterbuck told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "This was a huge game for us in terms of building towards being (able to handle) things like goals in the third period against and responding. It would have been easy for us to fold the tent up, but it's two points we really needed."

Ray Emery will get the start in goal for Chicago, which won't have rookie center Marcus Kruger (concussion) against the Wild. Kruger, however, is making progress and might be back for this weekend's tilts against the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks. The news isn't nearly as good for Daniel Carcillo, who might need surgery on a lower-body injury that he hurt Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers. The Hawks are also missing Sharp, but got another major scare just 1:35 into Tuesday's game against the Blue Jackets. Captain Jonathan Toews was beaned in the helmet by a slap shot from Duncan Keith that ricocheted off Columbus forward Ryan Johansen, then Toews' head and then the right post. Toews was gone for nearly nine minutes, but returned and logged an assist on one of Stalberg's three goals in Chicago's 5-2 win. Had the puck hit Toews just a few inches lower, it might've been a much more dire circumstance for him personally and his team.

"It hits me in the face and still doesn't go in," said Toews, who now has two rows of stitches and a welt on his forehead. "I'm not getting any bounces. It hit me on the helmet, so it could have been worse."

Who's hot: Bolland has scored goals in two straight games, Marian Hossa has 4 assists in the past four games and leads the Hawks with 26 points (7 Gs, 19 As) and a plus-21 rating at home. Toews has won 45 of 59 faceoffs (76.3 percent) in the last three games. … Dany Heatley has 4 goals and 7 points in the last seven games for the Wild, while Matt Cullen scored his second goal in the last four games on Tuesday and ended the shootout.

Injury report: Kruger (concussion), Sharp (upper body/wrist) and Carcillo (lower body) will all be out for Chicago. … Minnesota will be without Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Bouchard (concussion) and might not have Jarod Palmer (upper body) either.

Stat pack:
In seven appearances since giving up that memorable shootout goal to Kane on Dec. 14, Backstrom has gone 1-5-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

Puck drop:
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford picked up the 50th win of his career on Tuesday in just his second full NHL season. Crawford, who won his first game for the Hawks in 2007-08, won 33 games as a rookie last season and has 16 this year. He's not exactly eyeing up Martin Brodeur just yet, however. The New Jersey Devils goalie has a whopping 637 wins and counting.

"Maybe, if ever, I get to that point I'll be pretty excited," Crawford said. "But there's a long way to go. I've just got to focus on game to game."

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