Corey Crawford will get the start in net and Kris Versteeg will be sit with a lower-body injury as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Friday at the United Center.
For the third straight spring the two teams will meet, and second straight time in the second-round.
Last year, the Hawks dispatched the Wild in six games. The first five games in the series were won by the home team.Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 to clinch the series in Minnesota. The teams also met in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals, which Chicago won in five games.
The Hawks won the first three meetings against the Wild this season before dropping the last two with Devan Dubnyk in the crease for Minnesota. Chicago outscored the Wild 13-6, scoring at least four goals in all three victories.
[MORE: Full schedule for Hawks vs. Wild]
The Hawks enter the second-round on the heels of a six-game series victory over the Nashville Predators. It wasn't pretty, but the perennial Stanley Cup contenders advanced past the first round for a third straight year.
Crawford struggled in the first two games, but he later came in relief of Scott Darling in Game 6, stopping all 13 shots to clinch the first-round victory. Darling took over the No. 1 spot in Game 3 until he yielded three goals on nine shots in Game 6. He posted a 2.21 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook led the defensive unit with seven and four points, respectively. Keith led the team in total ice time (32 minutes average per game) and tallied two goals, including the game-winner in triple-overtime, five assists.
[MORE: 5 keys for Blackhawks series victory against Wild]
Chicago's star forwards group led the team with captain Jonathan Toews manning the ship. Toews led the team with eight points on three goals and five assists, while Patrick Kane had two goals and five assists in his return from missing 21 games with a broken clavicle. Kane has 39 goals and 59 assists in 99 career playoff games.
Kane scored eight points on two goals and six assists in four games against Minnesota this season. He has nine points on three goals and six helpers over 11 career playoff games against the Wild. Toews added six points (one goal, five assist) against during the regular-season.
Patrick Sharp, who has quietly sustained great success in the playoffs over the years, added three goals and two assist, while Marian Hossa chipped in five assists. Hossa is in a slump not having scored in 12 games and 18 playoff games, dating back to last year's series against the Wild.
[MORE: Bryan Bickell not scoring, but ready to breakout]
Bryan Bickell tallied two assists while shifting between the second line with Kane and Brad Richards, and the third line with Sharp and Antoine Vermette. Bickell performs his best against the Wild with eight goals and two assists in 12 regular-season games and seven goals and there assists in 11 playoff games over the last three seasons.
Bickell has been moved up to the second line in Kris Versteeg's spot, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, while Teuvo Tervainen has moved to the right wing spot and Sharp to the left wing position on the third line. Vermette entered the fray in Game 3, and 58 percent on face-offs. In the final three games of the series, he posted success rates of 60, 50 and 65 percent. The addition of Tervainen on the line should help his scoring chances as well.
[MORE: Point production not there, but Antoine Vermette a key for Hawks]
Crawford was 2-2-0 and made 146 saves on 154 shots against the Wild this season. Crawford was in net against the Wild during the past two playoff series. If Crawford's struggles like in the first round, Darling could enter at some point in the series, but the rookie net minder has never faced Minnesota.
Here are the lines:
Power Play Units
Opponent Breakdown: Minnesota Wild
Minnesota earned its spot in the second-round after dispatching the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues in six games. It's the second straight spring the Wild have beaten the Central champion to advance to face the Hawks. Last year, the Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche.
Dubnyk was acquired Jan. 15 from the Arizona Coyotes, and has turned Minnesota around. He was 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .936 save percentage over 39 regular season games. The 28-year-old stumbled a bit in the opening round, giving up nine goals including six in Game 3 at home. But he bounced back stopping 66 of 68 shots during the next two games to close out the series. In all four victories, he held the Blues to two goals or fewer, including a 3-0 shutout in Game 1 on the road.
[MORE: Is there a book on Dubnyk for Hawks to follow?]
Dubynk was 2-0 against the Hawks this season, stopping 56 of 57 shots in those games. Dubynk performs well on the road, recording 11 of the Wild's 12 consecutive road victories from Feb. 18 to April 9.
Minnesota's offense helped out Dubynk, averaging 2.83 goals per games while going 4-of-12 on the power play -- the best mark in the league during the opening round. But four goals were empty-netters. The Wild had 11 different goal scorers in the first round, tied for most in the NHL. Zach Parise led the scoring with seven points on three goals and four assist. The Hawks have held Parise to just five points (two goals, three assists) in 11 postseason games. Parise had jus two assists in four games this season against the Hawks.
[MORE: 5 storylines to follow in Wild vs. Hawks series]
Mikael Granlund, who centers the top line with Parise playing left wing and Jason Pominville on the right, tied Parise for the team lead with four helpers, he also scored once. Pominville was second on the team with five points on two goals and three assists. The top line led the way with six goals and 17 points in the first round, while Thomas Vanek and Chris Stewart are searching for their first goals. The Wild registered 22.7 shots per games in the first round, fewest of the 16 teams.
Outside of the top three, Nino Niederreiter was the Wild's top scorer with three goals. Minnesota's top blue line pari is Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, who leads the team with 15 blocked shots in the playoffs. Behind the top duo are Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon, who led the Wild's blue line in possession and combined for six points in the opening round with a goal and two assists each. The third pairing of Jordan Leopold and Matt Dumba, who is a force on the power play with a big shot.
The Wild have won 25 of the past 28 games when scoring first. During the regular season, the Wild allowed the fourth-fewest shots per game (27.6) and sixth-fewest goals per game (2.42). The Wild is usually tight defensively and efficient on exiting its own zone.
Mikko Koivu led Minnesota Minnesota with four points on a goal and three assist in the season series against the Hawks, while Jason Zucker, who also returned earlier than expected from a broken clavicle, netted three and two goals. Koivu has one point in 11 games against the Hawks the past two years.
Here are the lines from Friday's skate:
Power Play Units
Chicago: Kris Versteeg (day-to-day, lower-body)
Minnesota: Keith Ballard (concussion)
When: 8:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center
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