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NHL on NBCSN: Hungry Wild challenge battered Hawks

Apr 3, 2014, 8:41 AM EDT

ST PAUL, MN - JANUARY 23: Marian Hossa #81 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Matt Cooke #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the game on January 23, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 2-1. Getty Images

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The defending Stanley Cup champions have already secured a playoff berth, but they want to do more than just limp into their probable first-round series against the hot Colorado Avalanche. That’s exactly what they’re doing right now though.

Chicago just returned from a three-game road trip where they were outscored 12-4 and didn’t earn a single point. On top of that they lost captain Jonathan Toews, who will join Patrick Kane on the sidelines for the rest of the regular season.

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As deep as the Blackhawks’ offense is, that’s a ton of firepower sitting out of tonight’s game, which is music to the Wild’s ears. The duo has been a thorn in Minnesota’s side this season with a combined three goals and seven points in four games. Even with them though, Chicago is still down 1-3-0 in the season series.

So as much as the Blackhawks would like to avoid losing four straight contests in regulation for the first time since Feb. 2012, this will be a tough one for them.

It doesn’t help that this game means more to the Wild in the first place. Minnesota is in a good spot in the battle to secure a Wild Card spot, but every point remains critical.

That’s especially true given how hard the rest of Minnesota’s schedule is. On top of playing Chicago, the Wild will also play against Pittsburgh, Boston, and St. Louis in the last week and a half of the season. If they aren’t careful, the losses could still pile on and deny them a playoff spot.

The Wild aren’t completely health either. In fact, Ilya Bryzgalov is projected to start partially because goaltenders Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, and Darcy Kuemper are all hurt. They are also likely to be without forward Mikael Granlund, who is dealing with a possible head injury.

Unlike Chicago though, they have their top two forwards in Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. The duo has been hot lately with a combined six goals and 14 points in their last five games. The Wild will be looking for them to be the difference tonight and add to Chicago’s slump.

  1. haassauce21 - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    This is a must win for the Wild tonight!

    • chicagobtech - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      It’s safe to say this game is must win for both teams. Wild for a wild card slot, Blackhawks for building Mo.

      • lordfletcher - Apr 3, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        This isnt a must win game for either but realistically more important for the wild as they are battling for the playoffs, and fighting to not play the Blues in the first round.

        Granlund with another concussion (if thats the case) is incredibly concerning.

    • clarke16 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      Hardly a *must win* for the Hawks. Actually–next to meaningless. They’re in the playoffs and their playoff seeding/opponent is pretty much a lock. Home ice is the only thing they’re playing for.

      Granny came into the league with a history of concussions and research shows the effects are cumulative–meaning each one you get requires a less traumatic blow to produce than the one before it. It’s absolutely vital that you don’t become concussed a second time within the window of recovery from the one before it. People DIE from that.

      Unfortunately what this all means is Granny will be likely, at a minimum, on the shelf for the rest of the regular season.

  2. yetidad - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Let’s hope Yeo puts Heatley in the press box again and Granlund learns how to hit without hurting himself. Hope its not a concussion. Go Wild!

    • yetidad - Apr 3, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      Update: According to Russo at the Star Tribune, Heatley is back on the 4th line. Guess that was just wishful thinking. Yeo is scrambling with Granlund out and Nino sitting to rest his head.

  3. purpleguy - Apr 3, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    This is one of those sneaky games where I fear the Hawks will rally around their injured stars and gut out a win.

  4. luvmnsports2012 - Apr 3, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Man I hope the Wild tear it up from here on out. Be nice to see them not only get into the playoffs but get in with a nice hot streak going, especially with our upcoming schedule! GO WILD!!!

  5. luvmnsports2012 - Apr 3, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Well… In that case, here’s to HEATLEY scoring a goal tonight, Cheers Boys! Let’s hope Bryz stays good in the net tonight. Let’s stay hot boys!! GO WILD!!

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