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Blackhawks-Wild Preview

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Blackhawks-Wild Preview

GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (16-25-6) at Minnesota Wild (21-21-4).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

Nikolai Khabibulin gave the Chicago Blackhawks a lift Thursday night. The Blackhawks hope the momentum carries them to victory in a building where they usually struggle.

Chicago has lost four straight games and six of eight all-time at Xcel Energy Center, where they face the Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks are 3-1-2 in their last six games after a 4-2 victory Thursday over the Colorado Avalanche in Chicago. Khabibulin made 37 saves on his first night back after missing 10 games with a groin pull.

"I didn't expect a lot and tried to do the best I could," Khabibulin said. "I got some shots early and got into the game and got a little more confidence.

"Then in the second and third period we played very well. Starting in the second period we did what we need to do. We got it down low and got some turnovers off of that."

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period despite 20 shots and six power-play opportunities for the Avalanche. Kyle Calder, who had his second two-goal game of the season for Chicago, credited Khabibulin for keeping the contest close.

"Nik played well for us," Calder said. "He stood on his head in the first period. It was a vote of confidence for our team to know it was only 1-1. We could only go up from there."

The Wild try to wrap up a disappointing seven-game homestand with two straight victories. Minnesota improved to 2-4 during the stretch with a 5-3 win Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The victory followed three straight losses which saw the Wild get outscored 12-3.

"That's not the type of team we have," said center Marc Chouinard, who had two goals against Toronto. "We have to be loose. We have to be skating. We have to be forechecking really hard and create opportunities for our team."

Wes Walz and Marian Gaborik also scored for Minnesota, which has won nine straight games when Gaborik scores a goal.

Four could be the magic number in this matchup. Minnesota is 17-0-0 when scoring four goals or more, and the Blackhawks are 11-0-0 when they have four or more goals in a game.

STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 38 points, 3rd place, 27 PB, Central Division. Wild - 46 points, 5th place, 13 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 16 goals; Tyler Arnason, 23 assists and 34 points; Matthew Barnaby, 111 PIM. Wild - Brian Rolston, 18 goals, 27 assists and 45 points; Derek Boogaard, 82 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blackhawks - Power play: 13.2 percent (34 for 257), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (292 for 343), 4th. Wild - Power play: 18.0 percent (46 for 256), 14th. Penalty killing: 88.6 percent (225 for 254), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (11-17-3, 0 SO, 3.34 GAA); Adam Munro (2-0-2, 0, 1.92). Wild - Manny Fernandez (16-7-3, 1, 2.06); Dwayne Roloson (5-14-1, 1, 2.99).

SEASON SERIES: Blackhawks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 23, 2005; Blackhawks, 4-2. At Chicago, Mikael Holmquist's goal snapped a tie midway through the third period, and Rene Bourque had a goal and two assists. Chicago outshot Minnesota 32-17.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 7-14-3 on the road; Wild - 13-10-1 at home.


Associated Press

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