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U Got the Look: Blackhawks vs. Wild

The Blackhawks host their Central Division rivals at the United Center Sunday.

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Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

After playing arguably their worst game of the season on Saturday night, the Chicago Blackhawks don’t have much time to wallow as they host the Minnesota Wild at the United Center Sunday night.

The Wild are in a similar position as the Blackhawks: they’re playing in their second game of a back-to-back, coming off a disappointing road loss. In their 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, the Wild got on the board thanks to wonderkid Kirill Kaprizov, but they were unable to hold their lead, and Detroit’s Lucas Raymond scored his first two goals of the season to put the Red Wings over the top. The defeat limited the Wild’s first win streak this season to just two games.

The Wild had a rough start to the season, losing the first three, but they had managed to right the ship somewhat in the two games before the loss in Detroit. Minnesota has objectively not looked much like the team from last season with most of their games resulting in poor puck possession and low quantities and qualities of scoring chances. They were actually much better in both regards against the Red Wings — owning 56.57 percent of the shot attempts and 60.67 percent of the expected goals at 5-on-5 — but have been mediocre in most other games. The Wild will look to build on that statistical progress, though, against the Blackhawks, who are one of the worst shot possession teams so far this season and coming off arguably their worst defensive games of the season.

One area to watch for in the game Sunday is special teams play, which both teams have relied on in a way that isn’t sustainable. Like the Blackhawks, the Wild have scored just 13 goals at 5-on-5 much. Minnesota has two shorthanded goals and 10 power play goals on the season.

The usual suspects like Mats Zuccarello and Kaprizov are carrying the Wild offense so far this season with 12 points (5 G, 7 A) and 11 points (6 G, 5 A), respectively, in eight games. Joel Eriksson Ek (7 points) and Matt Boldy (6 points) are also hitting the scoresheet often, but the production drops off there somewhat. Blue-liner Cale Addison has 7 assists as well.

Since Filip Gustavsson played in Detroit last night, the Blackhawks will face their starting goalie for much of last season: Marc-André Fleury. He’s 3-1-1 on the season with a .879 save-percentage and 3.88 goals against average.

The Blackhawks have been exceeding expectations for much of this season, winning four straight after losing the first two. They’ve lost two in a row, now, but the 6-5 loss against the Edmonton Oilers was acceptable despite being disappointing due to how much heart the team played with throughout the game. However, the 4-3 loss against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday left a lot to be desired: despite leading early and earning a point, the Blackhawks played their worst game to date. They were out-attempted 78-47, out-shot 45-26, and out-chanced 44-30. It was also the first game in which the Blackhawks didn’t suppress quality chances against, instead allowing a season-high 22 high-danger chances against, which was higher than any game in the last two seasons. The penalty kill has also regressed, having allowed two goals against Buffalo and three against Edmonton.

There were still bright spots in the last game, luckily. Chicago’s depth players once against contributed when needed with two of the three goals coming from the bottom-six roster in the form of Jason Dickinson and Sam Lafferty. Both third-liners have three goals on the season now. Their former linemate, Philipp Kurashev, was promoted to the second line and had instant success there with a primary assist while being the driving force behind Taylor Raddysh’s second-period tally. The Blackhawks always seem to have a chance this season when these role players are clicking.

Alex Stalock is expected to be back in net for the Blackhawks. The 35-year old netminder has been a pleasant surprise with a solid .913 save percentage and 0.9 goals saved above expected in five games. He’s an adventure in net, but he’s given the team in front of him a chance to win practically every game.

Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Wild

45.98% (30th) — Corsi For — 51.01% (10th)

45.48% (30th) — Expected goals for — 53.48% (6th)

2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 3.72 (5th)

3.52 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.04 (25th)

49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 47.6% (27th)

19.2% (21st) — Power play — 20.5% (18th)

76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 76.1% (25th)

Projected lineups (card subject to change)

Blackhawks

Athanasiou — Domi — P. Kane

Kurashev— Toews — Raddysh

Blackwell — Dickinson — Lafferty

Katchouk — Entwistle — R. Johnson

McCabe — S. Jones

Tinordi — Murphy

J. Johnson — C. Jones

Stalock

Söderblom

Wild

Kaprizov — Gaudreau — Zuccarello

Boldy — Rossi — Foligno

Duhaime — Eriksson Ek — Hartman

Sam Steel — Dewar — Jost

Middleton — Spurgeon

Brodin — Addison

Merrill — Dumba

Fleury

Gustavsson

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV