Series (Game 4 of 4)

Chicago leads 3-1

Game 1: Monday, October 26th
Game 2: Tuesday, January 5th
Game 3: Saturday, January 9th
Game 4: Wednesday, March 31st

Blackhawks 4

(47-22-7, 101 pts)

Wild 0

(37-34-6, 80 pts)

Coverage: NBCSN

8:00 PM ET, March 31, 2010

Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota

1 2 3 T
CHI 1 1 24
MIN 0 0 00

T. Kopecky (Blackhawks - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

A. Niemi (Blackhawks - G): Saves: 21, Save Pct.: 1.000

N. Backstrom (Wild - G): Saves: 31, Save Pct.: .886

Blackhawks-Wild Preview


Their inability to protect a lead has been a big reason for the Chicago Blackhawks' recent rough stretch. It also doomed them the last time they visited Minnesota.

The Blackhawks look to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive loss when they face the Wild on Wednesday night.

Chicago (47-21-7) has already clinched a playoff spot but has lost seven of nine after falling 4-2 at St. Louis on Tuesday.

"It might sound stupid to someone on the outside looking in to say we're confident, but we are," said forward Patrick Sharp, who extended his point streak to five games with his second goal in as many games Tuesday. "We're going to keep battling."

Continuing a disturbing trend, the Blackhawks twice blew one-goal leads against the Blues. Chicago has held the lead in six of its last eight losses, and owned third-period leads in three of those contests.

That might not bode well Wednesday for the Blackhawks, who squandered a 5-1 third-period lead and lost 6-5 in a shootout at Minnesota on Jan. 9. The Wild (37-33-6) scored three times in a 2:05 span early in the third, then tied it on Guillaume Latendresse's goal with 1:33 to play.

Whether the Blackhawks can use the embarrassment of that loss as motivation to end their skid remains to be seen. If that's not sufficient incentive, Chicago's skrinking Central Division lead -- down to five over Nashville and six ahead of Detroit -- should be.

Another reason for Chicago's recent struggles has been a sagging power play. The Blackhawks were 0 for 2 on Tuesday and are 4 for 40 in their last 11 games with the man advantage.

Chicago is 3 for 10 on the power play, however, while going 2-1-0 against Minnesota in 2009-10.

Marian Hossa, who scored his 22nd goal of the season Tuesday, has three in the season series versus the Wild.

After Antti Niemi lost his second straight start Tuesday, it's uncertain if he'll be back in net or if Cristobal Huet will make his first start since last Thursday, when he gave up seven goals in an 8-3 loss at Columbus.

Huet has started all three of this season's meetings with Minnesota, posting a 2.27 goals-against average in those outings.

Though Minnesota is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season, it will try to build off a 3-2 home win over Los Angeles on Monday.

"It's pride. It's also our jobs. We just have to keep going," said forward Owen Nolan, who scored for the second straight game.

Former Blackhawk Martin Havlat had a goal with an assist and Mikko Koivu returned from missing two games with a upper-body injury by recording a pair of assists to help the Wild win for the sixth time in 10 contests.

Havlat, who posted a career-high 77 points for Chicago in 2008-09, has no goals and three assists versus his former team this season.

Koivu has 68 points, tops on the team and a career high. He had a goal in the January victory over the Blackhawks.

With backup Josh Harding done for the season with a torn labrum, Niklas Backstrom will likely see the bulk of the work in goal during the final six games.

Backstrom has won his last two starts, but was pulled after allowing five goals on 12 shots against Chicago in the Wild's comeback home victory.