(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks have struggled with inconsistency at the start of the new year but they hope to regain some momentum in Sunday's home clash against the sliding Minnesota Wild.
Chicago is 2-3-0 in January, alternating losses and wins since the start of the month. The rough patch began with a loss in the Winter Classic at Washington's Nationals Park on New Year's Day, and, after Chicago managed to win two out of three, it continued with Friday's 5-2 setback in Edmonton.
Of the Blackhawks' two wins in January, however, the most recent one came against tonight's opponent. Chicago recorded a 4-2 win Thursday in Minnesota despite being outshot by a wide margin.
Corey Crawford stole two points for the Blackhawks in St. Paul, making 42 saves to anchor the win. Minnesota outshot Chicago 37-10 after the first period and 44-20 for the game.
Chicago received a pair of goals from Bryan Bickell in the third period to pull away. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane also scored in the win.
It was the Blackhawks' third straight win over the Wild, as they improved to 2-0 in the five-game season series between the Central Division rivals. Chicago has won two straight and five of the past seven encounters in the Windy City.
Chicago was unable to win the other tilt on its recent two-game road trip, as it fell Friday night to the Oilers. The Blackhawks entered the game with 29 more points than lowly Edmonton, but Derek Roy finished with a goal and two assists to help the hosts pull off the surprising 5-2 victory at Rexall Place.
The Blackhawks had won the three previous meetings in Edmonton by a 16-3 margin, including a 7-1 rout at Rexall on Nov. 22.
Brandon Saad scored both goals for Chicago, while Antti Raanta stopped 17 shots in the loss.
"We had enough chances tonight. We didn't give up a ton," said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.
Chicago, which is four points behind Nashville for first place in the Central, begins a four-game homestand tonight. The 'Hawks are 14-5-1 at United Center this season and won't play the second tilt of the residency until Friday against Winnipeg.
The Wild are mired in a four-game losing streak and have posted just two wins over their last 12 games (2-6-4). The rough stretch has Minnesota seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference as it kicks off a three-game road trip with Sunday's clash in Chicago.
Minnesota lost a 3-1 decision Saturday against the visiting Nashville Predators. The Wild fired 37 shots on net, but Pekka Rinne made the difference for the Preds with 36 saves.
Charlie Coyle potted the lone goal for the Wild, while Niklas Backstrom made 24 stops in the loss.
"When you're losing games the way we are, everything is an issue," said embattled Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. "It's been something different every game. We're just spinning our tires."
Minnesota's Zach Parise returned after a two-game absence to deal with the death of his father, former NHLer J.P. Parise, who died Wednesday at the age of 73 from cancer.
Another loss tonight would give Minnesota its second five-game skid of the season. The Wild set a season-high losing streak with a 0-2-3 drought from Dec. 16-27.
The Wild, who will play seven of their next nine away from home, are 8-11-0 as the road club this season.
Crawford will start for Chicago and owns a 6-3-2 record and 2.35 goals against average in 12 career games against the Wild.
Backstrom is 6-11-1 with a 2.90 GAA in 19 career games against Chicago, while backup John Curry has never faced the Blackhawks.