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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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Schedule

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Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3
 
Final
CHC 1
CIN 4
Final
PIT 3
MIL 5
Final
WAS 3
STL 1
Final
CLE 2
TOR 3
Final
DET 6
ANA 11
Final
NYM 0
ATL 6
Final
BOS 4
BAL 8
9th
TAM 11
NYY 5
 
Final
MIA 8
SEA 4
Final
TEX 12
CWS 0
 
Final
KAN 5
MIN 0
 
8th
COL 10
PHI 1
 
2nd
OAK 7
HOU 0
 
3rd
LOS 0
ARI 0
 
3rd
SDP 1
SFG 0
 
Final
TAM 1
MON 4
Final
BOS 0
DET 1
1st Intermission
ANA 1
DAL 1
 
Final
NOR 0
DUR 3