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Wild aim to continue recent dominance of Blackhawks

Sportsnaut
Mar 16, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) reacts after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins during the first period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild will vie for a regular-season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon when the teams meet in St. Paul, Minn.

The Wild have won the previous three encounters this season against the Blackhawks, with two victories coming in a home-and-home series in January and the most recent taking place on Feb. 2. Minnesota has outscored Chicago by a combined margin of 14-4.

The Blackhawks are looking for their first win over Minnesota since posting a 5-3 decision on Dec. 15, 2019.

Meanwhile, Minnesota is looking to string together back-to-back victories after holding on for a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night. This is the third contest of a nine-game homestand for the Wild, who are looking to break out of a recent slump.

“Every game from here on out is going to be playoff-type atmosphere, and that’s what it takes to win in the playoffs,” Wild goaltender Cam Talbot said after the win over Boston. “It’s going to take those grind-it-out, hard-nosed games and we’re built for that.”

Kirill Kaprizov will try to stay hot after scoring his 31st and 32nd goals of the season in Minnesota’s most recent game. The 24-year-old Kaprizov leads the Wild in goals, assists (43) and points (75) in 58 games.

Mats Zuccarello is next on the Wild with 61 points (19 goals, 42 assists) in 51 games. Kevin Fiala ranks third with 54 points (20 goals, 34 assists) in 59 games.

For Chicago, Patrick Kane leads the way with 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 57 games. Alex DeBrincat trails Kane with 55 points (34 goals, 21 assists) in 61 games, and defenseman Seth Jones rounds out the top three scorers with 39 points (three goals, 36 assists) in 57 games.

Marc-Andre Fleury is 19-20-5 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .909 save percentage for the Blackhawks. Backup Kevin Lankinen is 3-7-4 with a 3.60 GAA and an .885 save percentage.

Minnesota’s primary netminder is Talbot, who is 23-12-1 with a 2.98 GAA and a .907 save percentage. Kaapo Kahkonen is 12-8-3 with a 2.87 GAA and a .910 save percentage.

Blackhawks rookie Alex Vlasic could make his NHL debut after signing an entry-level contract earlier this week. The 6-foot-6 defenseman, Chicago’s second-round pick in 2019, recently completed his junior season at Boston University.

Blackhawks interim coach Derek King said he was not yet sure if Vlasic would make his debut on the road against the Wild.

“I don’t want to throw the kid into a situation where (it’s against) a big team like that,” King said. “We’ll see. I mean, he is a big kid. Not that there’s any easy team out there, but if I can choose somebody different, I’d like to.

“We’ll see. I might say, what the heck? Just throw him in the fire, see what he’s got.”

Whenever Vlasic makes his debut, King said, he will bring important skills to the blue line.

“He closes well,” King said. “He’s got a good reach. His first pass is hard. He snaps that puck around pretty good.”

–Field Level Media