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Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks open vs. Wild

by Mike G. Morreale

WILD (26-19-3) at BLACKHAWKS (36-7-5)


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

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks won two of the three regular-season meetings between the teams this season, outscoring the Minnesota Wild by a slim 8-6 margin. The Wild held the Blackhawks without a goal in seven power-play chances. Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa each had two goals and one assist in three games against the Wild. Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi each led the way for their team in the series against the Blackhawks with one goal and one assist.

Big story: The Blackhawks and Wild will be meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in League history. The Hawks and Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) met six times in the playoffs over a 10-year period from 1982 through 1991.

Team Scope:

Wild: The team needed to win its final game of the regular season in order to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. Now they'll look to advance beyond the quarterfinal round for only the second time in 10 seasons. The team was led by free agent acquisitions Zach Parise (18 goals, seven power-play goals, 38 points) and Ryan Suter (28 assists). Captain Mikko Koivu also played a big role with 11 goals and 37 points. The addition of versatile forward Jason Pominville was huge, although his status remains in question to open the series after sustaining an upper-body injury late in the season. Goalie Niklas Backstrom will need to come up big and play flawless if the Wild are to have any chance. He closed out the regular season with a 24-15-3 record in 42 appearances, and had a 2.48 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

Blackhawks: Can Chicago become the first Presidents' Trophy winner to win the Stanley Cup since the Detroit Red Wings in 2008? The club is led on offense by captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who each finished with 23 goals this season. Kane led the club in assists (32) and points (55) while Hossa led the way with six power-play goals. Rookie forward Brandon Saad has been a big surprise, finishing fourth on the team with 27 points (10 goals). Corey Crawford and Ray Emery answered any questions there may have been between the pipes entering the season by combining to win their first William M. Jennings Trophy after yielding the fewest goals during the 2012-13 regular season. Crawford went 19-5-5 with a 1.94 GAA and .926 save percentage. Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage. Both goalies had three shutouts.

Who's hot: Kane closed out the regular season with three goals and nine points over the last six games. Toews had four goals and eight points in the last eight.

Injury report: Emery (lower body) and center Dave Bolland (undisclosed) are each day-to-day. … For the Wild, Pominville (head) is day-to-day and Dany Heatley (left shoulder) is out the remainder of the season.

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