Published May 02, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Minnesota Wild will aim for a win against the Chicago Blackhawks when the Central Division foes meet for Thursday's battle at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild have just two wins over their last 10 games (2-4-4) and enter Thursday's action six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Minnesota also trails second-place Chicago by 13 points in the division standings and the Wild have dropped two straight and five of the last eight meetings in this series. The clubs met for the first of five encounters in 2014-15 back on Dec. 16 in Chicago and the Blackhawks notched a 5-3 decision.
The Wild, who are 10-4-5 at home this season, have won two straight and four of their last six home games versus Chicago.
Minnesota lost its second straight game the last time out, dropping the opener of a three-game homestand in overtime against the San Jose Sharks.
The Wild suffered the 4-3 loss while playing without star forward Zach Parise, who missed the game to be with his ailing father, former NHL player J.P. Parise, who succumbed to lung cancer Wednesday evening. He was 73.
Minnesota held a 2-0 lead in Tuesday's game against the Sharks, but the Wild would need to tie the game late in regulation to send the game to OT. Jason Zucker evened the score at 3-3 with 7:48 left in the third, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic tallied the OT winner, burying a slap shot with 1:52 remaining in the extra session.
Zucker notched two goals and an assist in the loss. Jared Spurgeon also scored for Minnesota and Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves to fall to 13-12-1 on the season.
"I thought we competed and fought well," said Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter. "Of course there's some plays we'd like to have back, but we stuck with them the whole game."
The Blackhawks are in a minor funk, having lost two of three to begin the 2015 calendar year.
Chicago dropped a 2-0 decision to visiting Colorado on Tuesday and tonight Joel Quenneville's club will try to avoid its first set of consecutive losses since falling to Toronto and Winnipeg on Nov. 1 and 2.
The Blackhawks couldn't get a single puck past Semyon Varlamov on Tuesday despite firing 54 shots at the Colorado netminder. Corey Crawford, meanwhile, allowed both goals on 24 shots as he watched his team get shut out for the first time since Nov. 2 against the Jets.
Colorado tallied the only offense it would need just 53 seconds into the game when the rebound of John Mitchell's shot went right to Nathan MacKinnon, who wristed it over the glove of Crawford. Just 24 seconds later, Max Talbot slipped in MacKinnon's pass off the rush for a 2-0 game.
"We just couldn't find a way to bury the puck," Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said.
Chicago is opening a two-game road trip and will cap the brief swing tomorrow night in Edmonton. The Blackhawks are 12-7-1 as the visiting team this season.
It's uncertain if Crawford or backup Antti Raanta will get the start in net tonight. Crawford is 5-3-2 with a 2.38 goals against average in his career versus Minnesota, while Raanta is 1-1-0 with a 2.56 GAA in this matchup.
Veteran Niklas Backstrom is 6-10-1 with a 2.90 GAA in his career against Chicago and will get the start tonight.