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First Impression: Wild, Hawks Play in Chicago Sunday

With first place on the line, Wild and Blackhawks tangle for first time this season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

CHICAGO -- The two best teams in the Western Conference will meet for the first time this season when the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks meet at the United Center on Sunday night. 

Despite it being mid-January, somehow, the Wild and Blackhawks have not yet crossed paths. Minnesota's 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Saturday night assured a tie atop the standings, with both clubs boasting 59 points

Minnesota does have four games in hand, however, technically putting the Wild in first place. Regardless, the tie in points won't last long, one way or another.

"We know that they're coming off a pretty good beating and they had their day off taken away and they did battle drills all day," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We're know what we're in for. We better be ready."

Chicago lost 6-0 to the Washington Capitals on Friday in its most lopsided defeat of the season. 

"It may seem like you want to throw it in the trash but I think it'd be a waste if you didn't try to [learn] a little bit from [Friday]," Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk told the Chicago Tribune.

The Blackhawks could be without forward Artem Anisimov, who is questionable for the game after missing Saturday's practice because of illness. Anisimov leads the team with 18 goals and is third on the club with 31 points.

Two years to the day since making his first start in a Wild uniform, goaltender Devan Dubnyk will get the nod for Minnesota. 

In the 731 days since the Wild acquired Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, Dubnyk has gone 81-42-11 with a 2.04 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage with 15 shutouts. 

The goals against, save percentage and shutout numbers are the best of any goaltender in the NHL over that span and his 81 victories are second-most among goaltenders with at least 75 games played. 

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