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Wild-Blackhawks Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 3:48 AM

Associated Press

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Wild-Blackhawks Preview
Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks

A visit from the Minnesota Wild might not be what the Chicago Blackhawks need to snap their longest losing streak of the season.

The Blackhawks look to avoid an eighth straight loss, while trying for their first victory over the Wild in more than two years when the teams meet Friday night at the United Center.

For the second consecutive season, the Blackhawks (19-20-4) have struggled in the month of January. Chicago went 2-8-2 in January 2007, which included a season-high, 10-game losing streak from Jan. 4-26.

After a solid first half to 2007-08, injuries to key players like rookie Jonathan Toews, Jason Williams and Brent Sopel - who signed a $7 million, three-year contract extension Thursday - have taken a toll on Chicago. The Blackhawks lost 3-1 at home to Dallas on Wednesday - their seventh straight loss overall - to fall to 0-5-1 this month.

"It's frustrating." said Chicago coach Denis Savard, whose team has earned two points and been outscored 28-12 during its seven-game losing streak. "We've got to make sure we're working and get out of this funk as soon as possible - the next game."

That won't be an easy task for the Blackhawks, who are 0-5-3 against Minnesota since a 4-2 home win over the Wild on Oct. 23, 2005. Chicago has lost its last three games to Minnesota at the United Center.

The Blackhawks also lost 1-0 at Minnesota on Oct. 4 to open the season - their second straight shutout loss to the Wild.

On Wednesday, Robert Lang scored for a second straight game but the Blackhawks were held to one goal for the third time in four contests. Nikolai Khabibulin made 27 saves, but extended his season-high losing streak to six games. He is 0-5-1 with a 3.23 goals-against average during that span.

Khabibulin is 2-5-2 with a 2.42 GAA versus Minnesota, including losses in his last five starts versus the Wild.

Minnesota (24-17-2) won 6-5 in a shootout at Detroit on Thursday to avoid a third straight loss, just hours after the team was purchased by former Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold.

"It was a busy day, winning a game against this team, and getting new owners," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "It's a big day."

Marian Gaborik, who scored the winner in the shootout, had a goal and two assists Thursday for the Wild, who had been outscored 7-2 in their previous two games.

The team's leader scorer, Gaborik has three goals in his last three games versus Chicago. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who scored the lone goal in the Wild's win over the Blackhawks in October, has three goals and five assists in 15 games against them.

Josh Harding made 26 saves in relief of starter Niklas Backstrom, who was pulled Thursday after giving up four goals on 19 shots.

Backstrom could be back in net Saturday looking for another solid effort against the Blackhawks. He made 27 saves for the shutout in the Oct. 4 meeting - his only career game versus Chicago

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 04 '08 CHI 4 at MIN 2 D. Byfuglien
Feb 20 '08 MIN 0 at CHI 3 P. Kane
Jan 11 '08 MIN 5 at CHI 2 P. Bouchard
Oct 04 '07 CHI 0 at MIN 1 P. Bouchard