With a “stingy” style of play resulting in plenty of success, the Minnesota Wild will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday in Saint Paul, Minn.
Minnesota has outscored opponents 9-2 during its last three games, and Wednesday’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings saw the Wild allow a season-low 17 shots. The Wild themselves had only 22 shots against Detroit, leading to what Minnesota head coach Dean Evason described as “just a really stingy hockey game.”
However, style points aren’t nearly as important to Evason as points in the standings.
“I hope that teams find it difficult to play against us. Not only just physically, but because we’re hopefully relentless not only in the defensive zone but … in the offensive zone as well, hunting pucks down and keeping pucks in,” Evason said. “That is our identity and that’s what we want to be, and we’ve got to that point. So now the challenge again is to continually do that on a nightly basis just over and over, over and over again.”
Since Nov. 19, the Wild are 9-3-0 and have limited opponents to an average of 27.3 shots per game. That shots-allowed total is among the lowest of any NHL team over the last four weeks of the regular-season schedule.
Such a defensively stout opponent doesn’t bode well for a Chicago team that has an NHL-worst 66 goals and ranks near the bottom of the league in shots.
The struggling Blackhawks are 1-12-1 in their last 14 games. The Blackhawks have lost five straight in regulation, with only five goals scored and two shutout losses in that span.
Taylor Raddysh did score late in the third period on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough as Chicago dropped a 4-1 home result to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Through the middle part of the game (against Vegas), we had some lapses and just mistakes here and there,” Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said. “But we did push, and we’ve been doing that pretty much consistently all year. But that’s exhausting when you do it every game.”
Since Arvid Soderblom started against the Golden Knights, Petr Mrazek will likely face the Wild in the second game of the back-to-back. Mrazek and Soderblom have mainly been splitting goaltending duties while Alex Stalock is recovering from a concussion.
The Wild’s Filip Gustavsson stopped 16 of 17 shots against Detroit, and now has a .921 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average over 11 games (10 starts) this season. Marc-Andre Fleury is still ostensibly Minnesota’s top choice in net, but with Fleury struggling, Gustavsson has been earning more playing time.
Tyler Johnson is questionable for Friday’s game after an early exit Thursday due to what Richardson described as an aggravation of an ankle injury. Johnson was in his second game back with the Blackhawks after missing 20 games with his troublesome ankle.
Wild forward Mats Zuccarello has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) during an eight-game points streak.
Dating back to the 2019-20 season, the Wild are 6-0-0 in their last six games against the Blackhawks. That streak includes a 4-3 shootout win in Chicago on Oct. 30.
–Field Level Media