Blackhawks try to reverse trend vs. Wild

Blackhawks try to reverse trend vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild have had the Blackhawks number the last season and a half. The Blackhawks will try to reverse that trend starting Wednesday night.

Since the beginning of 2015, the Blackhawks are 0-7-1 against the Wild. In those eight games the Wild have outscored the Blackhawks 28-12. There have been some frustrating games lately, including the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to Minnesota in January. Now trailing the Wild by six points in the Central Division, the Blackhawks are looking to close the gap.

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“We’re looking at where we are in the standings, it’s a chance to get it closer,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They have games in hand but that gap gets bigger and it’s like, ‘OK, we’d like to be the ones pushing them.’ So let’s try to control what we can control tonight and try to close [the gap].”

The Wild have lost just twice in their last 14 contests. Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks while Darcy Kuemper is expected to start for the Wild.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

Michal Rozsival (lower body)

Wild forward lines

Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Alex Tuch

Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart-Erik Haula-Tyler Graovac

Defensive pairs

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella-Matthew Dumba

Gustav Olofsson-Christian Folin

Goaltender

Darcy Kuemper

Injuries 

Jonas Brodin (broken finger)

Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

The Blackhawks players started banging their sticks on the ice following coach Joel Quenneville’s announcement.

One year after having just one representative at the NHL All-Star Game, the Blackhawks are slated to have four this year.

Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews were named to this year’s All-Star Game, which will be Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. It was a privilege for all selected and for one, somewhat of a surprise.

“I really didn’t expect to hear my name get called for the all-star game this year, knowing how great of a season (Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov) are having. No doubt about it, they’re much more deserving,” said Toews, who was also selected last season but had to bow out due to illness. “In some ways maybe they can take advantage of the rest and continue the way they’re playing after the game. But definitely would like to see those guys get what they deserve and get that recognition.”

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Indeed, based on their performances this season, there’s certainly a case for all three of those players who aren’t going. Anisimov leads the Blackhawks with 18 goals. Hossa has 16 goals and Panarin is second on the team with 41 points (Kane leads with 44).

For Kane and Toews, this is the sixth time they’ve been selected for the game. This is Keith’s fourth selection and Crawford’s second. Kane, last year’s lone Blackhawks representative after Toews fell ill, said it’ll be nice to have a few teammates along.

“It’s a lot more enjoyable, a lot more fun when you have your teammates there,” said Kane, who agreed others could have easily been selected, too. “You could throw Anisimov in there, Hossa, Hjalmarsson, [Brent Seabrook], we could have a bunch of guys going. I guess there are only so many spots given.”

There are always guys who get left off these rosters. It’s the way it goes with trying to get other teams’ represented. But the Blackhawks will still get a good group of players headed to the game, and they’ll enjoy the weekend.

“Every time you get named to something like this, special feeling. A lot of great players in the league who could go but aren’t going,” Keith said. “I’m fortunate to be part of a group of great players that make me play better, too.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Predators: Net-front presence

Five Things from Blackhawks-Predators: Net-front presence

Finding another way to win, even with one of the more different hat tricks the Blackhawks have ever seen. You take ‘em how you can get ‘em, and Ryan Hartman and the Blackhawks felt that way, whether it was with his first career hat trick or their 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.

Indeed, that hat trick made the score look more lopsided than it actually was, but the Blackhawks will take their third victory in a row.

Speaking of heating up, as we look to warmer temperatures – yes, 30 degrees sounds downright balmy right now – let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Predators.

1. One interesting, but effective, hat trick. With less than 1:15 remaining in regulation you wouldn’t have expected Ryan Hartman, with one goal at that point, to finish with a hat trick. But two empty-net goals later that’s what Hartman did. Hartman, who also had the reviewed game-winner, got his first empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining and the next with 31.6 seconds remaining. But hey, does it matter two were empty netters? As Patrick Kane said, “I think it’s one of those things where you get your first hat trick and then three or four days from now, no one’s going to even remember that he had two empty net.”

2. Getting to the net. We really can’t underestimate how valuable Artem Anisimov has been, even when he doesn’t score a goal. Exhibit A came in the first period, when Anisimov screened Pekka Rinne as Niklas Hjalmarsson’s fifth goal of the season got through. Richard Panik and Hartman got to the net late, and again the result was a goal. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “normally you need traffic and presence. It’s not easy to get there but that’s the reward, by getting to the front of the net.”

[RELATED: Ryan Hartman's hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators]

3. Getting the right response. Artemi Panarin had barely given the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead before the Nashville Predators tied it up in the first period. Part if it was a bad line change, and the Predators took advantage. While the Blackhawks had the right response following Hjalmarsson’s goal the Predators pushed – and just about scored – again following Hartman’s go-ahead goal in the third. Even without P.K. Subban and James Neal, the Predators were still dangerous.

4. Niklas Hjalmarsson’s career-high fifth goal. Sure, Hjalmarsson’s chief job out there is blocking shots, and he does that well. But on Sunday he added some offense, recording his fifth goal of the season. Any time the Blackhawks defensemen are engaged on the offensive side it usually leads to good things. Hjalmarsson will take it. “I just get more pucks through now, I guess. At the same time, it’s a little luck, too,” he said. “I probably could’ve had a couple more the past few seasons. Sometimes you get those lucky bounces. It’s been going in so far, so hopefully it can keep going.”

5. Panarin, anywhere near the left circle, does it again. OK, Panarin was slightly above his normal shooting area – “his backside might’ve been touching the boards,” Kane said. But it was the same result, as Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season. The kid just has an incredible shot and if he’s anywhere in the vicinity you’ve got to expect him to fire it. Again, it’s still stunning how much space he gets around there to take that shot.