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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, October 26th (All times Eastern)

Minnesota Wild (5-3-3) at Chicago Blackhawks (6-1-3), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of Central Division rivals will meet for the opener of a home-and-home series on Saturday, as the Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Minnesota Wild for a clash at United Center.

This is the first of five meetings between these teams this season and the first as members of the same division. Chicago was previously a member of the Central Division, but the Wild joined the group for this season as part of the NHL's realignment plan.

The Wild, who will host Chicago on Monday, have not fared well against Chicago in recent meetings. The Blackhawks have won two straight in the series and boast a 6-0-3 record in the past nine encounters between the clubs. The defending Stanley Cup champions also have come out on top in three of four and five of its last seven meetings in the Windy City.

Minnesota comes into this Central Division showdown with wins in its last two trips to the ice and will try to win three straight for the second time this season. The Wild won both games on their mini-streak at home, beating Nashville 2-0 on Tuesday before notching a 3-1 decision Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Nino Niederreiter and Zach Parise tallied first-period goals that held up for the win on Thursday against the 'Canes. Both early scores came against Justin Peters, who was pressed into duty for Carolina when No. 1 goaltender Cam Ward exited with a lower-body injury just 4:07 into the contest.

Dany Heatley's first goal of the season, an empty-netter with 25.9 seconds left, sealed the Wild's fourth straight win on home ice.

"I thought our start was good. Got up a couple goals and we definitely let our foot off the gas," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo.

Minnesota, meanwhile, also lost a goaltender to injury as Josh Harding stopped 20-of-21 shots before leaving after two periods with a lower-body injury. Niklas Backstrom came on for the third and made seven saves to protect the lead. Backstrom will get the call on Saturday, his first start since getting injured on Oct. 8

It's unclear if Harding will be able to serve as the backup tonight. If he's unable to suit up, the Wild will use Johan Gustafsson to spell Backstrom if the need arises.

The Blackhawks are coming off a loss, but the team has managed to earn a point in seven straight games, going 5-0-2 over that span.

Chicago had a two-game winning streak halted Thursday, dropping a wild 6-5 overtime decision in Tampa. Martin St. Louis scored on a rebound 1:16 into the extra session to give the host Lightning the extra point.

After Steven Stamkos scored his second goal of the game with 2:29 left in regulation to put the Lightning ahead 5-4, Jonathan Toews was credited with a goal on a Tampa Bay miscue less than a minute later to force overtime. However, in the extra session, Radko Gudas ripped a shot at Nikolai Khabibulin, who coughed up the rebound which allowed St. Louis to wrist home the game-winner.

Khabibulin, in just his second game of the season, stopped just 19-of-25 shots for the Blackhawks, who had won five of six games entering Thursday's tilt. Bryan Bickell, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw all netted goals in defeat.

"I thought going into the third period we didn't give up much. We were playing the right way," Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said. "Things got a little bit different than we've seen in any third period this year. I guess it was one of those nights where the puck was going in."

Corey Crawford is expected to get the start on Saturday. He is 3-1-2 with a 2.01 goals against average in seven career outings against the Wild.

10/26 10:47:41 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 31
UCONN 21
Final
CHA 79
IND 88
Final
CAL 5
CAR 0
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
CAR
 
8:07pm Tonight
SFG
KAN
Final
CHA 79
IND 88
Final
DET 109
PHI 103
Final
NOP 88
DAL 85
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
DAL
 
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
NYK
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
MIA
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
MIN
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
SAN
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
PHO
 
10:00pm Tonight
LAL
SAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
DEN
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
POR
 
Final
ECU 31
UCONN 21
Final
VT 6
MIAMI 30
7:00pm Tonight
CIN
SFLA
7:30pm Tonight
SALABAMA
TROY
9:00pm Tonight
BSU
BYU
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
OREG
Final
BOS 2
NYI 3
Final
DET 4
PIT 3
Final
MIN 2
ARI 0
Final
NAS 3
CHI 2
Final
STL 1
VAN 4
Final
CAL 5
CAR 0
Final
LOS 2
BUF 0
Final
SJS 4
CLB 5
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
DAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
TAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
VAN
 
9:30pm Tonight
EDM
CAR
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
CLB
 
Final
DEN 35
SDC 21