Planet Earth Turns Slowly: Blackhawks at Wild

Another game closer to the end of the season for the Blackhawks.

The Chicago Blackhawks are riding a three-game losing streak as they head to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon to face off against the Wild.

It’s been a while since the last time the Blackhawks played the Wild: all the way back on Dec. 16, when Chicago lost 4-1, and the Wild had just finally clawed their way into the playoff standings in the Central Division. Now, Minnesota is comfortably in a position for the postseason, but is still battling for some home-ice advantage: a points percentage margin of just .007 separates the Wild (.632), Dallas Stars (.639), and Colorado Avalanche (.634) for the top seed in the Central.

In their quest for the best standings position, the Wild have been solid down their latest stretch, going 6-1-3 in their last 10 games and getting points in four of their last five. They’re coming off a 5-4 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but extended their points streak while on the road to 10 games despite playing one of their most lackluster games this season.

The Wild are relying heavily on their young studs to help power them up the standings, especially when it comes to goals production. Matt Boldy — who scored twice in the loss against the Flyers — has a very respectable 25 goals in 72 games while Joel Eriksson Ek — who has seven points in his last five games — is close behind with 23 goals. Boldy, in particular, has been on blowing up lately with 8 goals with 7 games since March 11 — tied for most in the NHL during that span. He’s the second-fastest player in Wild history to reach 40 career goals after Marian Gaborik.

Normally, this is where Kirill “The Thrill” Kaprizov would be mentioned, as he comfortably leads the team with 39 goals in 65 games — good for top-10 in the league — but he’s still at least a week or two away from returning from an injury that’s kept him out of the Wild lineup since March 9.

Luckily, they still have Mats Zuccarello (64 points in 70 games), who continues to be a driving force for the Wild, especially on the power play, where his 27 points is second only to Kaprizov — all while being 10 years older. Marcus Johannessen, acquired by Minnesota from the Washington Capitals at the NHL trade deadline, has been a great pick-up so far, adding nine points in 11 games. And Ryan Hartman, who missed time earlier in the season due to an injury, is top-six for this team with a 0.62 points-per-game rate.

Of course, Hartman brings a little more than just points to the team:

In lineup news, the Wild will be missing more than Kaprizov: defenseman John Klingberg — acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline — is out with an upper-body injury. Calen Addison will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three games (despite leading Minnesota defensemen in points with 28 in 59 games). And the Blackhawks won’t be facing their former netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, as Filip Gustavsson is expected to start — he has a .932 save-percentage and 2.04 goals against average in 33 games this season.

Speaking of Fleury, please enjoy him wanting to start a goalie fight. And who can blame him? If anyone deserves a punch to the face, it’s Jordan “Trash Baby” Binnington.

As for the Blackhawks, there’s no new news beyond what was reported from Friday’s practice: Philipp Kurashev will not play against the Wild Saturday due to an upper-body injury, Reese Johnson will draw back into the lineup as his replacement, and Alex Stalock is the expected starter.

Projected Lineups


Likely similar to what they ran against the Capitals with R. Johnson thrown in with Kurashev out and Stalock in net.


Likely similar to what they ran against the Flyers with Addison in place of Jon Merrill on the blue line and Gustavsson in net.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Wild

43.20% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.13% (18th)

41.59% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 50.67% (18th)

2.45 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.90 (23rd)

3.56 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.67 (3rd)

53.1% (5th) — Faceoffs — 47.7% (26th)

16.2% (31st) — Power play — 21.9% (13th)

76.1% (21st) — Penalty kill — 80.2% (14th)

How to watch

When: 4 p.m. CT

Where: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720