Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011
With desperation about to set in, the Chicago Blackhawks believe now is the time to string together some wins.
The reigning Stanley Cup champions can start by trying to beat a team they're chasing in the Western Conference standings.
The Blackhawks return from a disappointing trip trying to avoid a third straight loss overall and at the United Center on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.
With less than two months remaining in the regular season, Chicago (28-22-6) has no choice but to get hot in order to defend its Cup title. The Blackhawks are 11th in the West, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 26 games left.
"We're looking for our own run," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website. "Every game is huge, every game is important."
The Blackhawks, who suffered shootout losses at Dallas and Phoenix to conclude a 2-2-2 road swing, have lost six of eight. They're returning to the United Center for the first time since falling 4-2 to Minnesota on Jan. 25.
"We have a lot of character," rookie goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We need the points."
After Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Vancouver, the Wild (30-21-5) remained ninth in the conference. They are three points ahead of Chicago and one behind eighth-place Calgary.
Minnesota overcame a 2-1 first-period deficit last month to drop Chicago to 16-13-0 at home. The Blackhawks were 29-8-4 at the United Center in 2009-10.
The Wild, meanwhile, have won 12 of 17 on the road.
"They are playing very well right now," said Quenneville, whose club plays six of the next nine at home. "It's a very meaningful game."
Chicago has been outscored 8-3 in its last two home contests. The challenge in the offensive zone could get tougher if Patrick Kane is unable to play after dealing with the flu this week.
Though Kane didn't score in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Coyotes, he had four goals and three assists the previous three games. Kane has two goals with six assists his last seven versus Minnesota.
Despite losing four of five, Crawford is expected to start Wednesday. He stopped just 18 of 22 shots last month in his first career start against the Wild.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a goal with an assist and ex-Blackhawk Martin Havlat scored for the Wild at Chicago in January.
Havlat has that goal and three assists in six games versus Chicago since leaving as a free agent in 2009. However, he was held without a point for the second straight contest Tuesday as the Wild had their three-game winning streak snapped with their third loss in 12 games.
"We had a nice little winning streak and now we lost," coach Todd Richards said. "We have to regroup and come out (Wednesday) and try to start another winning streak."
Though Minnesota outshot the Canucks 29-14, it was stymied after totaling 11 goals the previous three games.
"It's definitely frustrating. We've been playing so well," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said.
Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck scored Tuesday, giving him four goals in three games.
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