NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.
Like most teams, the Blackhawks found out just how tough it was to win your first game back from the bye week, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to Edmonton on Saturday.
But they were able to put that loss behind them the following night by taking down an improved Sabres team, 5-1.
Coming into tonight’s game, Chicago trails Minnesota by seven points in the race for top spot in the Central Division (the Wild have a game in hand). So this is obviously a crucial matchup for both teams.
“They’ve had an amazing run. Give them credit,” ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of the Wild, per the Chicago Tribune. “I know we played pretty well last time and we’re going to have to be even better going into this game. … Hopefully we can try to close the gap.”
That “last time” Quenneville is referring to came on Feb. 8, when his team won a 4-3 decision in Minnesota thanks to an overtime goal by captain Jonathan Toews (he also had two assists in that one).
Toews has finally found his offensive game, as he’s recorded 15 points in his last 11 contests, which puts him at 37 points in 50 games.
Including that win in Minnesota, Chicago has rattled off six consecutive victories away from the United Center, but the Wild are no slouches at home.
Tonight’s game will be the seventh of an eight-game homestand that has seen them go 4-1-1 so far. As was mentioned before, the OT defeat came to the ‘Hawks, while their only loss in regulation was a 1-0 decision against Anaheim.
One of the reasons the Wild have been able to maintain their strong play is because of their ability to get offensive production from multiple lines. But of all the lines they’ve assembled, none has been better than the trio of Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund, who have combined for 43 goals, 110 points and a plus-84 rating since being put together on Nov. 25.
“We feed off each other pretty well,” Zucker said, per the StarTribune. “And I think we make sure we hold each other accountable when we have a bad shift, a bad play or a bad game. Whatever it is, we make sure we know what we did wrong, and we fix it.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the Wild come out for tonight’s game. As bad as some teams have been coming out of the bye week, there are a few others that have also been equally terrible in the game before the time off. With such a condensed schedule, it’s normal that a few players could already have their sights set on their upcoming vacation time.
This should be a good one!