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Wild scratch Vanek against Blackhawks

Struggling forward to sit for second consecutive game

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

WILD (33-28-11) at BLACKHAWKS (42-24-6)

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN

CHICAGO -- Forward Thomas Vanek will be scratched a second straight game when the Minnesota Wild face the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday.

Vanek, whose 18 goals are third on the Wild, was also scratched in Minnesota's 3-2 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday. He participated in the Wild's optional morning skate at United Center, but hadn't spoken to interim coach John Torchetti about the decision

"I think at this point there's no need to talk," Vanek, who will miss his third game of the season. "We're trying to win games and if that's what [Torchetti] thinks is the best lineup, I've got to respect that. It is what it is."

Torchetti wants to see a better all-around game from Vanek.

"Just a solid game, that's all we're looking for from all our players," Torchetti said. "We put the lineup in that we feel [is] going to help us win and if you're not in, you've got to wait your turn. And then, when you get back in, stay in the lineup."

Goalie Scott Darling will start his third straight game for the Blackhawks. He is handling the starter's role while Corey Crawford recovers from an upper-body injury. Crawford is day-to-day and no timeline has been given for his return. 

Darling will make his 16th start and 21st appearance. After earning the backup role last season and playing a key role in the Blackhawks' series victory against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round, Darling hasn't received much time this year.

This stretch could help him get back to his previous level. After losing 3-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers last Wednesday, Darling earned his first shutout of the season against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

"He [hadn't] had consecutive games and that was a great response, as well as here he goes again for three in a row," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's a great challenge for him. I like the response for him getting in the net and taking advantage of it."

There is a lot at stake for each team. The Wild can take over the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with a win against the Blackhawks and loss by the Colorado Avalanche, who play at the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday (9:30 p.m. ET; SN1, ALT, NHL.TV).

The Blackhawks, sitting third in the Central, need to keep pace with the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, who each won Saturday. 

It won't be easy. The Wild is 3-0-0 against the Blackhawks and have outscored them by a combined 13-6, including a 6-1 win in a Coors Light Stadium Series game at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium on Feb. 21.

"There's no doubt that we've got to use a little bit of a fire that comes off the loss we had in the outdoor game," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "That obviously didn't feel good, but I think more than anything, we've got to recognize this is a team that has a little bit of a chip on their shoulder when they play us, given the history that we've had [against the Wild] in the playoffs. So, we can imagine if it was the other way around, we would be the exact same way."

They won't have to worry about Vanek, even though the Wild lost forward Ryan Carter to an upper-body injury against the Hurricanes. Carter's injury left a void at forward, but Chris Porter will get the first chance to fill it, rather than Vanek.

"Am I happy about it?" Vanek said. "Of course not. I still feel like I can make a difference in this League. It's obviously been a tough year, but at the end of the day it's tough to score goals, and I've got 18 of them, which is not where I would like to be. But again, it is what it is. I'm not going to get frustrated here or be negative. I'll just work hard and wait for my chance to get back in and to make a difference."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle  

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jordan Schroeder

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - David Jones

Chris Porter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Jonas Brodin

Mike Reilly - Mathew Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Steve Michalek

Injured: Darcy Kuemper (upper body), Ryan Carter (upper body)

Scratched: Thomas Vanek, Nate Prosser

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Ladd - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Dale Weise - Teuvo Teravainen - Tomas Fleischmann

Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Shaw - Richard Panik

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook

Trevor Van Riemsdyk - Michal Rozsival

Scott Darling

Michael Leighton

Injured: Marcus Kruger (left wrist), Corey Crawford (upper body)

Scratched: Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Rasmussen, Brandon Mashinter

Status report: Ehrhoff will be scratched for a second straight game and fourth time in nine games since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in a trade on Feb. 26. ... Quenneville said Kruger is still on schedule to return during the Blackhawks' upcoming four-game road trip March 26-April 1, but no exact date has been determined. ... Carter made the trip with the Wild. 

Who's hot: Hossa has goals in his past two games and has 498 goals in his NHL career. ... Niederreiter has a four-game point streak with three goals and one assist.

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