Wild pursue home-and-home sweep of Blackhawks
The Minnesota Wild will go for their second win against the Chicago Blackhawks in as many nights when the teams meet Saturday in St. Paul.
Minnesota is coming off a 5-1 win at Chicago on Friday night. The teams headed to the airport for a short flight northwest after the game to wrap up the back end of a home-and-home set.
Blackhawks interim coach Derek King is looking for a better effort from his club in the rematch.
“They didn’t have to play defense,” King said of the Wild. “They were in our end the whole time. They played a hard game. Defensively, they close on players quick. They don’t give you a lot of time and space. And we did the opposite down in our end — we gave them too much time.”
Wild forward Ryan Hartman, who started his NHL career with the Blackhawks, gladly took advantage of his time in the offensive zone. Hartman scored twice Friday to give him a team-high 18 goals on the season — only one shy of the career high that he set during the 2016-17 campaign with Chicago.
Minnesota coach Dean Evason praised Hartman for his work ethic. Hartman has been part of the Wild’s top line alongside Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov.
“He’s progressed as a player, but he plays the same way,” Evason said. “He’s never changed his style of play. He doesn’t cheat the game. He’s gritty. He’s played hard. He has a skill set that can produce offensively, and he’s got a chemistry with those two guys, and it’s worked out real well.”
The Blackhawks will look to rebound from back-to-back losses, including a 3-2 road setback in a shootout on Monday against the Seattle Kraken. Chicago won four straight games before falling to Seattle and Minnesota.
Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 36 points (nine goals, 27 assists) in 36 games, and he has an active nine-game point streak in which he has produced two goals and nine assists. Alex DeBrincat tops the team with 23 goals, though he hasn’t found the net in his past four games.
Kaprizov leads Minnesota with 46 points (16 goals, 30 assists) in 35 games following a two-assist performance Friday. Zuccarello ranks second with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 30 games, and Hartman is third with 32 points (18 goals, 14 assists) through 36 contests.
Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen will start for the second straight night, Evason said, after improving to 8-2-2 on Friday. Kahkonen turned aside 35 of 36 shots in the victory.
Chicago had not announced its goaltender. The Blackhawks could give another start to veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled Friday after giving up four goals on the first 13 shots he faced. Otherwise, the team could go with backup Kevin Lankinen, who stopped 16 of 17 shots in relief.
Minnesota hopes to have captain Jared Spurgeon available to return Saturday from a lower-body injury. Spurgeon, who has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 21 games, has not played since Dec. 16.
–Field Level Media