Hawks get Keith back in lineup to face Wild
Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 2:50 PM
NHL.comBLACKHAWKS (44-26-10) at WILD (34-35-11)
TV: CSN-CH (HD)
Chicago 7-1-2; Minnesota 5-4-1
Chicago has earned five out of a possible six points in the three games against Minnesota. The Wild have picked up three points in those games. The Wild beat the Hawks in a shootout, 5-4, this past Sunday.
The Blackhawks can still finish as high as fourth in the Western Conference, but they'll have to win and get some help. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews
is on the trip, but he will miss his 21st straight game. Toews could still play in the season finale Saturday at Detroit. Duncan Keith
will return to the Blackhawks lineup after missing five games due to his suspension for elbowing Daniel Sedin. Chicago went 2-1-2 without Keith.
Other than their playoff seed, which the Blackhawks do not control, the big news in Chicago has to do with Toews. He is making his first road trip with the club since he left the lineup in late February with an upper-body injury.
Toews said Wednesday that he is feeling better and he has passed all the league protocol tests, but he is still not 100 percent and he won't play until he is. He added that he is close and that going on the road trip will help him get back into his routine.
"This isn't a tragedy," Toews said. "It's not life and death. I can still go to sleep at night and I'm not completely depressed."
The decision on when Toews plays will likely be up to him. He will have to go to the Blackhawks' medical staff and say he's OK. When he does, it's likely that Joel Quenneville puts him in the lineup.
"It's all part of the process," Quenneville said Wednesday before the Hawks departed for Minnesota.
The Hawks will also play without Dave Bolland
, who is out with an upper-body injury. He is on the trip as well and could play Saturday.
The Wild have not finished a game in regulation since the Rangers beat them on March 27. Their last three games have gone to a shootout and the one prior went to overtime, but the Wild are 3-0-1 in those games, so they are at least closing another difficult season in a strong way.
Perhaps the reason is captain Mikko Koivu has had a significant impact since he returned from his shoulder surgery. Koivu, who missed 23 games in the second half of the season due, has played in eight straight and has 6 points in the last five.
The Wild are 26-19-8 when Koivu plays; 8-16-3 when he doesn't. Koivu recently missed 15 straight games and the Wild went 5-9-1.
Who's Hot: Patrick Kane
has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last three games. Nick Leddy
has 4 assists during a three-game point-scoring streak. Patrick Sharp
has scored a goal in three straight games.
For Chicago, Toews (upper body) and Bolland (upper body) are out while Andrew Brunette
(lower body) is questionable. … The Wild have been missing a lot of guys of late, including Matt Cullen (finger), Matt Kassian (groin), Steven Kampfer (lower body) and Jared Spurgeon (concussion). Guillaume Latendresse (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Mike Lundin (lower-body) are on I.R.
The Wild are second in the NHL with 1,312 blocked shots. … Minnesota is 29-6-4 when it gives up two goals or fewer in a game. … Kane has 9 goals in his last 17 games after scoring just 14 over his first 63.
"I'm just trying to work my way back to whatever that might be," Toews said Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune. "There are always little things here and there that trigger it. It's not a perfect thing that I know what to expect at every given part of the day. It always seems to be different. I'm just trying to make sure every part of my life is back to normal first."