After falling 4-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks have no time to lick their wounds as they head to the Twin Cities on Friday to take on the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks are on another losing streak — this time they’re at five games — so it’s again not an ideal time for them.
The Wild took a little while to get going this season, losing the first three games of the season and hovering just below .500 in their first 10 games, but they’ve been gaining momentum as of late. They’re 7-3-0 in their last 10, on a three-game win streak and sit in third in the Central Division based on points. Minnesota isn’t exactly playing like a powerhouse, but the team is playoff quality with some young (25 or younger) top-end talent who can take over games offensively when they want.
That young talent starts with Kirill Kaprizov, obviously, who lead the Wild with 36 points (17 G, 19 A) in 29 games. His 1.24 points-per-game rate is just slightly behind the two players — Sidney Crosby and Mikko Rantanen — tied for top-nine among NHL forwards this season. Eriksson Ek (24 points in 29 games) is having his most productive season by far and Matt Boldy (21 in 29) is having a very respectable sophomore campaign. On defense, Calen Addison has been an offensive revelation for the Wild, especially on the power play, as 11 of his 15 points have come with the man advantage. These four are just some of the younger players the Wild are building around.
In terms of the older veterans, Mats Zuccarello is skating like he’s still 25, having racked up 30 points (10 G, 20 A) in 29 games. But after him, there’s a big drop off in terms of production among forwards. Defensemen like Jared Spurgeon (12 points in 29 games) and Matt Dumba (9 in 29) can be counted on to contribute some, but the defensive group doesn’t show up on the scorecard as much as some other teams the Blackhawks have faced lately.
In injury news for the Wild: Ryan Hartman, who was a powerhouse for Minnesota last season, has only played in nine games this season due to a shoulder injury sustained the last time the Wild played the Blackhawks on Oct. 30.
There is a chance Hartman could return Friday, though:
#mnwild just met with Ryan Hartman, who is going to skate with the assistants tomorrow. He wants to return Friday vs. Chicago. If he feels good tomorrow and is medically cleared by the doctors, sounds like he will return Friday even without a full practice under belt.— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) December 15, 2022
Speaking of the last time the Blackhawks and Wild played, Minnesota took that October bout 4-3 in a shootout. Despite the close score, the game itself was fairly controlled by the Wild, who owned 55.67 percent of the shot attempts and 64.67 percent of the expected goals in regulation. Still, the Blackhawks were more entertaining during that game and the span leading up to it — the skid they’re on now is anything but fun.
The Blackhawks have lost five straight, their second losing streak of at least five games or more this season, and have only won one game in their last 14 games. Even more embarrassing, the Blackhawks have been outscored 20-5 in those five straight losses and scoring one goal or fewer in three of those games. Their 7-17-4 record has them only behind the Anaheim Ducks for the race to the bottom — based on points percentage — in the Connor Bedard/Adam Fantilli sweepstakes. After Thursday’s games, though, the Blackhawks have 18 points in 28 games and sit dead last in the NHL, just behind Anaheim’s 19 in 31.
The five goals in the last five games have come from mostly expected players: Taylor Raddysh has two, while Jonathan Toews, Max Domi, and Tyler Johnson each have one. They really need to figure out how to get Patrick Kane going, who hasn’t scored in six games since the Blackhawks last won against the New York Rangers on Dec. 3. But it’s possible they just don’t have the playmaking talent to make that happen. On defense, the Blackhawks blue line has been mostly a blackhole offensively, outside of the Jones brothers — Seth has 8 points (1 G, 7 A) in 18 games and Caleb has 9 (1 G, 8 A) in 22 games — but even that’s been lackluster and lacking as of late (though S. Jones did pick up an assist against Vegas).
Tyler Johnson, who has only played two games after missing 20, is now questionable for Friday’s game after aggravating his ankle injury again:
Tyler Johnson re-aggravated his ankle injury, Richardson says. His status is TBD for tomorrow at MIN. https://t.co/cyjdib1uo7— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) December 16, 2022
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Golden Knights
40.97% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.64% (17th)
40.55% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.97% (12th)
2.36 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.07 (17th)
3.68 (28th) — Goals against per game — 2.93 (14th)
56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 48.4% (23rd)
23.3% (13th) — Power play — 25% (8th)
72.5% (25th) — Penalty kill — 79.6% (14th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Domi — Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Lafferty — Dickinson — Blackwell
Khaira — Entwistle — Johnson
J. Johnson — S. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — Mitchell
Kaprizov — Steel — Zuccarello
Walker — Gaudreau — Boldy
Greenway — Eriksson Ek — Foligno
Reaves — Dewar — Shaw
Middleton — Spurgeon
Brodin — Dumba
Merrill — Addison
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV