The Chicago Blackhawks look to break their recent scoring slump and get back into the victory column with a road matchup against the Minnesota Wild on Friday night. The Hawks are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and haven't scored an even strength goal in regulation since Oct. 22.
Playing without Duncan Keith was supposed to cost Chicago on the defensive end, but instead his absence has only magnified the team's struggles with balanced scoring. The second line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin continues to be the team's lone source of reliable offensive production, and the result has been grind after grind trying to win low-scoring games behind a surprisingly steady defense.
The loss to Winnipeg was a reminder that you can only win so many games if you're not putting the puck in the net. Corey Crawford had posted back-to-back shutouts before allowing three goals to the Jets. For a team with this much offensive talent, from Kane and Panarin to Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen, being tied for the second-lowest goals per game figure in the league is disappointing. A defensive-minded strategy doesn't mean it's okay to average two goals a night.
With that said, the defense has been encouraging and there's still a long time for the offense to figure things out. Maybe it's time to split up Panarin and Kane to balance things, or maybe a Marko Dano call-up could bring the shot in the arm that many believe it will. The Hawks have options to try to get this thing going. Expect the changes to keep coming until they find a mix that shows some results.
For the Wild, it's been a solid start to the season. Coming off a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, Minnesota is 6-2-1 this season. Devan Dubnyk has been very good in goal, Zach Parise is still amazing and the team's possession numbers are solid. A 9.9 shooting percentage at even strength (3rd in the NHL) might go down a bit over the course of 82 games, but the Wild are once again looking like a playoff team early on this season.
How to watch:
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minn.
TV: CSN Chicago