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Wild's Scandella back vs. Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

WILD (16-11-1) AT BLACKHAWKS (21-9-1)


CHICAGO -- Teams that face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs often develop rivalries that carryover to future seasons, and that appears to be the case with the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.

Tensions have increased the past two seasons for a couple of reasons. Mainly it's because the Blackhawks have knocked the Wild out of the playoffs the past two seasons. It's also because the Wild, who will play the Blackhawks for the first time this season Tuesday at United Center, were moved into the Central Division last year.

The number of times these teams face each other has grown, and so has the rivalry aspect.

"I mean, it has to," Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella said after the Wild's optional morning skate. "Two years getting eliminated by the [Blackhawks] is not easy. We felt like we had a good chance of winning that series. Tonight's a different game. It's not the playoffs, but definitely the rivalry is still there."

The game is the first of five between the Wild and Blackhawks, who ended Minnesota's season in a tough six-game series during the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals. By the end of the series, the dislike between them was palpable. The desperation on both sides was just as noticeable.

"It might have started out a little slow, but as the series went on it got a little more nasty and probably got a little more entertaining too," Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane said. "I know it only went six games, but we were happy to get out of that series because of the way they were playing. Especially at home, they were tough to beat. It'll be a good test for us."

The one thing that stood out most in that series to the Blackhawks was how much better the Wild had gotten from a year earlier, when they needed just five games to end Minnesota's season in the first round.

Looking back, the effort it took to oust the Wild last season hasn't been forgotten by the Blackhawks.

"I thought it was tough," forward Patrick Sharp said. "It was night and day from the previous year. Watching them play against [the Colorado Avalanche] in the first round, they were a great team to watch. Then playing them up close, it was a tough series. They're good in all areas and they're gaining confidence. They're a bunch of winners over there, so it's a team we're going to have to be aware of all season long."

Chicago will be challenged even more this time. Top defenseman and alternate captain Duncan Keith will miss the game with an undisclosed illness. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he doesn't know whether it's related to the mumps outbreak that has affected multiple players from several teams and at least one official.

Minnesota will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon because of an undisclosed illness, but is getting Scandella back after he served a two-game suspension for an illegal hit.

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Brett Sutter - Kyle Brodziak - Erik Haula

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Christian Folin

Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Stu Bickel

Injured: Matt Cooke (hip flexor), Ryan Carter (upper body), Keith Ballard (face/head), Jared Spurgeon (illness)


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Patrick Sharp

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Tim Erixon - Brent Seabrook

David Rundblad - Michal Rozsival

Antti Raanta

Scott Darling

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom

Injured: Corey Crawford (lower body), Duncan Keith (illness)

Status report: It's unclear until pregame warmups how Quenneville plans to deploy his six defensemen without Keith in the lineup. ... Keith and Hjalmarsson didn't participate in the morning skate, but Hjalmarsson will play.

Who's hot: Saad has points in back-to-back games, including the game-winning goal Sunday in the third period against the Calgary Flames. He has four goals and three assists in the past eight games. ... Suter has nine assists in his past 10 games.

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