The Chicago Blackhawks will continue to fight for a higher seed in the Western Conference when they visit the Minnesota Wild for tonight's clash at Xcel Energy Center.
The playoff-bound Blackhawks enter today's action as the sixth seed in the West, where they trail Nashville by two points. Like Chicago, the Predators have two games left in the regular season and also play tonight against visiting Dallas.
Chicago is playing its second straight game against Minnesota after losing Sunday's home test to the Wild in a shootout. This is not a home-and-home series, however, as Minnesota visited Nashville in between its meetings with the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks had won four straight and six of seven against Minnesota before losing Sunday's 5-4 decision to the visiting Wild. Devin Setoguchi had a goal and two assists in regulation and then scored the game winner in the shootout to lift Minnesota to the win at United Center.
Patrick Kane scored twice, Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg netted a goal apiece and Ray Emery made 26 saves for Chicago.
"We want to continue to roll, continue to gain momentum and try and be in the right frame of mind for the first game of the playoffs, whoever we are playing," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said after the shootout loss.
The Blackhawks hope the return of defenseman Duncan Keith to the lineup tonight can help that get a full two points against the Wild. Keith has completed a five-game suspension that was handed to him by the NHL for elbowing Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the head on March 21. Sedin is still sidelined with a concussion and isn't expected to return for the Canucks until the first round of the playoffs at the earliest.
"It's been a while, five games, but it's gone by quick, too," Keith said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm looking forward to getting back and helping the team here in the last couple games and the playoffs."
The Blackhawks, who are just 17-18-4 on the road this year, will complete the regular season on a two-game trip. Chicago will play its final game before the playoffs this Saturday in Detroit.
The Wild, who will miss out on the playoffs for a fourth straight season, were dealt a 2-1 shootout loss in Nashville on Tuesday. Alexander Radulov netted the lone goal in the shootout to lift the Predators.
Radulov faked and went to the forehand to lift the puck over Niklas Backstrom's pad, just inside the left post. Anders Lindback, who had 25 saves, then stacked his pads to stop Setoguchi's attempt for his first shootout victory.
Dany Heatley scored in regulation for Minnesota, while Backstrom stopped 23 shots.
"I thought as a group they played a real strong game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of his team.
The Wild will play their final two games of the season in St. Paul and are 19-16-4 as the host this year. Minnesota will close its 2011-12 schedule Saturday against Phoenix.