|MIN||0||1||1||(0 - 0)||2|
|CHI||0||1||0||(0 - 0)||1|
Although the Chicago Blackhawks have spent most of the last few weeks away from the United Center, they'll soon be reacquainted with their home ice.
That's where the Blackhawks are set to play eight of their next 10 games, starting Sunday night against the Minnesota Wild, who are beginning their own extensive road stretch.
Chicago (34-15-8) is 15-4-5 at home, and its 24 games there are the fewest for any NHL team. In 12 games since the All-Star break, the surging Blackhawks are 9-3-0 with eight wins coming as visitors.
After beating both Florida teams, Chicago completed the swing with a 3-1 victory over Dallas on Saturday.
"I think the road trip was the best thing for us," said defenseman James Wisniewski, who scored his second goal of the season. "We got back to playing playoff hockey, Chicago Blackhawk, high-intensity hockey."
But as the Blackhawks look to make it five in a row for the first time since reeling off a franchise-record nine straight from Dec. 7-28, they'll also be trying to end their recent struggles versus the Wild (29-24-4).
The Blackhawks are 3-8-3 against Minnesota since Jan. 20, 2006, going 1-4-1 in Chicago. They fell there 4-1 on Jan. 19 in the teams' most recent matchup after splitting a pair of contests in St. Paul earlier this season.
Minnesota has lost two of three road games since the break and is just 11-13-0 away from home overall. However, the Wild will have plenty of chances to improve on that record, with 15 of their next 19 set on the road.
They enter that grueling stretch after posting a 5-2 victory over Detroit on Saturday to end an 0-2-1 slide.
"This is huge, going into (Sunday's) game in Chicago and going into March with all the games on the road. It was a great team effort," said defenseman Martin Skoula, who had his first goal of the season.
Minnesota also moved within one point of Anaheim and Edmonton, who are tied for eighth in the Western Conference. Chicago is fourth.
"All of a sudden I like the team because everyone's working and everyone's doing what they were supposed to do, and I know we have a chance when they do this. Now it's a matter of doing it," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.
Another high-scoring performance from Owen Nolan could help. He had two goals and an assist Saturday to give him nine points in his last six contests.
He leads the Wild with 17 goals and is fifth with 30 points. Nolan also has 16 goals and 41 points in 43 games versus Chicago.
It will likely be up to Chicago's Cristobal Huet to contain him. He made 30 saves Saturday in his fifth straight start while Nikolai Khabibulin remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Huet, 4-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average in that span, has won eight of 12 at home and two of his last three versus the Wild.
Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom has started all three matchups versus the Blackhawks this season, and is 3-2-0 with a 1.81 GAA in five career games. After making 35 saves against Detroit's league-leading offense, he may have a chance to contend with a Chicago unit that is fifth in the NHL with 3.4 goals per game.
The Wild could again be without left wing Andrew Brunette (lower-body injury), who sat out Saturday to end the league's longest active consecutive games streak at 509.
|Feb 22 '09||MIN 2 at CHI 1||P. Olvecky|
|Jan 19 '09||MIN 4 at CHI 1||M. Zidlicky|
|Dec 28 '08||CHI 4 at MIN 1||D. Byfuglien|
|Oct 27 '08||CHI 2 at MIN 3||B. Burns|