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Tonight on Versus: Chicago and Minnesota battle for Western bragging rights

Dec 14, 2011, 7:30 AM EDT

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Niklas Backstrom, Marian Hossa AP

We bet you didn’t think tonight’s Wild-Blackhawks battle in St. Paul would be between the top two teams in the Western Conference when the season started. That’s just what we’ve got though. Minnesota is tops in the West with 43 points while Chicago leads the Central Division with 40 points.

After seeing the Wild battle and brawl with Winnipeg last night, facing Chicago shows what life after realignment will be like against these divisional foes. The Wild are getting it done with goaltending all the same though. Whether it’s Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, or Matt Hackett, scoring on the Wild is no easy feat. These Wild also aren’t going to bore you to tears by clogging the neutral zone. They attack at both ends of the ice and push the pace to a breakneck pace.

When you’ve got guys like Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, and Mikko Koivu it seems wrong to hold them back. Also impressing for Minnesota is centerman Kyle Brodziak. With Guillaume Latendresse back from injury, the Wild are just that much deeper now too.

Chicago, of course, brings their circus of fun into town with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp. What’s been dragging on Chicago of late is their goaltending. Corey Crawford hasn’t been all that and Ray Emery has seized the opportunity. Emery will get the start tonight to try and hold the Wild down.

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