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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Chicago

Wild hosts Blackhawks in final game before bye week

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Chicago Blackhawks (36-18-5, 77 points, second place, Central Division) at Minnesota Wild (39-13-6, 84 points, first place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:10 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; NBCSN (outside FOX Sports North market only) FOX Sports GoWild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

The Minnesota Wild will play its final game before its bye week when it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota begins the day seven points ahead of Chicago for the top spot in the Central Division and will have just over a quarter of the regular season remaining afterward.

"When you're playing the best, you get up for it," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It's one of those games that's a great challenge for your group, and you're playing a team that has still won three Stanley Cups in the past seven years. And they've been in every battle you can imagine.

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs Chicago

"That's a team that gets up for every important game, and I think they'll think this is an important game."

While the Central Division certainly won't be won or lost based on what happens Tuesday night, a victory over the Blackhawks would, at minimum, a big mental boost as the Wild goes quiet for the next four-plus days. 

Minnesota doesn't play again until it hosts Los Angeles in the final game of an eight-game homestand on Monday, but the Blackhawks will be in action twice before then, offering Chicago an opportunity to gain further ground in the divisional race.

"We certainly would like to keep the separation, there's no doubt," Boudreau said. "We watch the standings like everybody else, so we think it's an important game."

The Wild may be getting a big part of its blue line back on Tuesday, as Matt Dumba could re-join the lineup after missing the past four games with a lower-body injury. 

Dumba was hurt toward the end of the first period of a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 10. He finished the remainder of the game, but has not played since. After two full practices and morning skate on Tuesday, Dumba said he feels ready to go.

"I'm feeling pretty confident in returning tonight and being a part of things again," Dumba said. "I think [the decision to play] still has to go through some more people. I know we have to talk to trainers in the back, and (general manager) Chuck (Fletcher) and Bruce, but I'm confident I could. I guess that's up to them though."

The four games missed by Dumba may have been a blessing. Replays of when the injury occurred revealed something that looked like it could have been a lot more serious.

"A credit to my flexibility," Dumba said. "Looking back at it, it was just a little hiccup and we were trying to be safe about it."

If Dumba plays, the Wild will have a full compliment of defensemen for the first time in more than a month; Jonas Brodin, who was hurt Jan. 17 and missed the next 14 games, returned on Saturday against Nashville.

Brodin played that game on the right side of Gustav Olofsson and will be there again Tuesday. Dumba would play to the right of familiar face Marco Scandella.

Video: Wild Pregame vs. Chicago

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Zach Parise - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Gustav Olofsson - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

BLACKHAWKS

Nick Schmaltz - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman - Tanner Kero - Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling


The opponent

The Chicago Blackhawks returned from their own bye week over the weekend, losing 3-1 to the Edmonton Oilers in their first game back on Saturday before rebounding nicely in a 5-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. Patrick Kane scored a goal in his return to his hometown on Sunday, giving him 20 for the season. He is the first American-born player in NHL history to score at least 20 goals in each of his first 10 seasons. Kane is second on the team in goals, behind Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa, who each have 21. Artemi Panarin is one goal shy of becoming the fourth 20-goal scorer in Chicago's lineup. Captain Jonathan Toews has been red-hot as of late, scoring five goals and chipping in 10 assists over his past 11 games since Jan. 22. He scored the overtime game-winner and also had two assists in Chicago's win in St. Paul on Feb. 8.


Connections

• Wild coach Bruce Boudreau played in seven games for the Blackhawks during the 1985-86 season.

• Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason skated in 41 games for Chicago during the 1987-88 campaign.


Showdown with Chi-town

The Wild is on a nine-game point streak against the Blackhawks (8-0-1) since Feb. 3, 2015, one game shy of its franchise-best 10-game point streak against a single NHL opponent (done twice) versus Arizona and Edmonton. Minnesota is 14-6-2 in its last 22 games against Chicago since April 1, 2012, with 13 of the contests decided by one goal, including five in a shootout. Tuesday's game marks the third time in 38 days the Wild and Blackhawks have played; the clubs will meet once more this season, on March 12 in Chicago.

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