Thanks to their high-powered offense, almost everything is going right lately for the Chicago Blackhawks, especially at home. A struggling defense, meanwhile, has cooled off the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks will try to add to the Wild's woes Tuesday night and earn their fourth straight victory overall and fourth in a row at the United Center.
Stellar play on both sides of the ice has helped Chicago (29-10-3) lead the Central Division with 61 points and match the team's best 42-game start since 1971-72. Lately, however, the Blackhawks' offense has grabbed the spotlight with at least four goals in six straight games.
Chicago, among the league leaders with 3.17 goals per game, also scored five goals for the third consecutive home game Sunday night against Anaheim.
In a 5-2 victory, Marian Hossa had his second two-goal performance and first since his debut with the team Nov. 25 as the Blackhawks earned their 16th win in 18 home games. Backup goaltender Antti Niemi also came within 3:21 of his fifth shutout this season as the team won for the 12th time in 15 games overall.
Chicago also tallied a power play goal for a season-high seventh straight game and is 8 for 25 with a man advantage in that span. The Blackhawks have conceded four goals on 57 power-play opportunities since Nov. 28.
"Our special teams and penalty killing has been outstanding ... I think our power play is starting to heat up," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We like the way we're playing, and we think we can still improve."
Patrick Kane also extended his point streak to eight games, one shy of his career high set Oct. 30-Nov.21, as he assisted on a pair of goals. Kane, among the league leaders with 48 points, has seven goals and seven assists during his current run.
He also scored in a 3-1 home win over the Wild (20-19-3) on Oct. 26, and Cristobal Huet stopped 20 shots. Quenneville could again turn to Huet, who has a 1.35 goals-against average in his last three matchups with Minnesota.
While the Blackhawks are among the NHL's best defensive teams in allowing 2.07 goals per game, the Wild are one of the league's worst over the past 2 1/2 weeks.
Since winning 10 of 13, Minnesota have given up 29 goals during a 3-5-0 stretch. The Wild have also allowed at least three in each of their last five contests and at least four in three straight defeats, including a 5-3 home loss to New Jersey on Saturday night.
After his team rallied from a two-goal deficit, the Wild allowed three scores in the final 20:04, including the go-ahead tally in the final seconds of the second period.
"The building was rolling and to give up that goal ... was pretty deflating," coach Todd Richards said.
Niklas Backstrom, who suffered his second straight defeat in that game, might be on the bench as he has a 3.32 GAA over his past seven starts, and the Wild host Northwest Division rival Calgary on Wednesday night to open a four-game homestand.
Backup Josh Harding is also 3-1-0 with a 1.50 GAA in his career against Chicago.
The Wild, who have alternated losses and wins in their last five road games, have won six of eight at the United Center since Jan. 22, 2006, and have 22 wins in 33 all-time matchups.
The teams will meet again in Minnesota on Saturday night.