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.
The Minnesota Wild have been the most consistent team in the NHL this season. They’ve been able to maintain their great start for the most part and it doesn’t look like they’re on the verge of slowing down.
They seem to have the perfect balance of scoring forwards, puck-moving defensemen and arguably the best goalie in 2016-17, Devan Dubnyk.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Wild have a six point lead on Chicago for top spot in the Central Division. And, oh yeah, Minnesota also has two games in hand. A win could really put some distance between the two teams.
Even though they’re at home, the Wild will have a slight disadvantage because they played in Winnipeg last night, while the ‘Hawks were sitting in Minnesota waiting for their opponent to arrive into town.
The 4-2 win over the Jets was a prime example of how depth scoring has propelled Minnesota to the top of the Western Conference standings. Even though the likes of Eric Staal, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu didn’t register a point, the line of Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Jason Pominville combined to score nine points in the victory.
“Nothing with this team surprises me right now,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Minneapolis StarTribune. “It seems like there’s a different hero every night. Charlie’s a good player. He doesn’t get a lot of notice. Maybe it’s because we’re in Minnesota, or whatever the reason. But he’s a good player. And tonight he came to play. So did Niederreiter and so did Pominville. He got four points. Those guys held us down.”
The Blackhawks will need to figure out which line will be “rolling” for the Wild tonight and they need to do their best to neutralize them.
Whatever the strategy is, they know they can’t afford to drop this game if they want to have a legitimate chance of regaining the division crown.
‘Hawks forward Patrick Kane called tonight’s clash “the biggest game of the year,” per the Chicago Sun-Times, and he isn’t kidding. Not only do they need the four-point swing to go in their favor, but they also have to put an end to Minnesota’s eight-game (regular season) winning streak against them.
“They have balance, a back end and are strong in the net. We’re having trouble beating them in the regular season,” coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “It’s a huge game for us, probably at this stage, for sure, our most important game. You want to finish first, you want to win as often as possible, you want to push the team ahead of you if you’re not there. but certainly there’s a gap there we’re looking to close.”