Final

Series (Game 2 of 2)

Chicago leads 2-0

Game 1: Sunday, September 24th
Wild2Final
Blackhawks5
Game 2: Saturday, September 30th
Blackhawks4Final
Wild1

Blackhawks 4

(7-1-0, 14 pts)

Wild 1

(3-3-0, 6 pts)

8:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006

Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota

1 2 3 T
CHI 2 2 04
MIN 0 1 01

Top Skaters

Chicago 4, Minnesota 1

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire doesn't want people to get the wrong impression of the 2006-07 version of his team.

Sure, the Wild signed key free agents in the offseason with the hope of adding some offensive firepower to a defensive-minded squad. But Lemaire has made it clear that defense will remain his team's No. 1 priority.

Michal Handzus had a goal and an assist to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night in the final preseason game for both teams.

It looks like Lemaire still has some work to do.

"It's funny to say this, but we have to get our defensive game back," Lemaire said. "I have this feeling that there's a rush to go out and get a goal. You can't play like that. You need to be patient and wait for the right time. It's almost like we want to go and get a goal before the game even starts."

Bryan Smolinski, Radim Vrbata and Rene Borque also scored for Chicago (7-1), and Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves. Marian Gaborik scored for the Wild.

Minnesota finished the preseason 3-3, sometimes looking like a team that has struck the perfect balance between offense and defense and sometimes looking like a team still searching for its identity.

"I know we added some talent in the offseason," center Brian Rolston said. "But we have to play the Wild system. That goes for everybody. The sooner we start playing like that the better. We want to get that good feeling."

Turnovers plagued the Wild on Saturday. Wes Walz's neutral zone turnover led directly to Smolinski's goal in the first period.

Lemaire said it's important for the Wild to avoid trying to make a fancy play, and to continue working on their sharpness in practice.

"There's not a lot of time in the game to (make the fancy play)," he said. "You just need to bear down and make sure the pass gets on the stick. We looked like the team we had four or five years ago tonight when it came to passing."

Branko Radivojevic appears to have secured a spot on the Gaborik/Pavol Demitra line. Lemaire was searching for a forward that would add a defensive presence to the offensively gifted tandem.

"That's where Radivojevic is going to play," Lemaire said. "He had a couple of good shifts in the second."

So that's one sure thing that came out of this preseason. Everything else, however, remains a little vague.

"You can gauge (the preseason) however you want to," Walz said. "You're always going to remember the last game you played."

"A lot of games we had a good feeling," Rolston added. "But we have a lot of gelling that needs to be done. This is a transition period. We'll move on from here."

Notes: The Wild sent defender Shawn Belle and center Wyatt Smith to the Houston Aeros of the AHL before Saturday's game. Belle was part of last season's trade that sent Willie Mitchell to the Dallas Stars. He skated in two preseason games. Smith, a native of Thief River Falls, also played in two preseason games. He has totaled 23 points in 125 career games with Phoenix, Nashville and the New York Islanders.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPNChicago.com