NHL on NBC: Blackhawks still eyeing run for playoff spot

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Saturday’s matchup between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. Regionalized coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blackhawks’ playoff dreams are hanging by a thread. Entering Saturday’s game against the Wild, Chicago sits five points out of a Western Conference wild card spot. It’s looking like a second straight spring without the postseason, which last happened in 2007 and 2008.

In 37 games under head coach Jeremy Colliton, the Blackhawks are 12-18-6, and while Patrick Kane is playing like he may threaten his career highs in a number of categories, defensively the team hasn’t been able to stop the goals from going in. With Corey Crawford out indefinitely, the duo of Cam Ward and Collin Delia haven’t been difference-makers. 

Offensively, they’ve been unable to get goals at the right times. Sixteen of Chicago’s 33 losses this year have been by one goal, with nine of them coming in overtime.

“We haven’t really found a way to win games this year,” said Kane during NHL All-Star Media Day. “We’ve been in a lot of games, especially lately. There was a point there where we were five, six points out of a playoff spot, we weren’t playing that well, then all of a sudden we’re in these close games and you can’t find ways to get points. It just kills you. By no means are we counting the season out yet, but we definitely have a lot of work to do, especially these last [30] games to try to put ourselves in a spot to make a run into the playoffs.”

[WATCH LIVE – REGIONALIZED COVERAGE BEGINS AT 8 P.M. ET – NBC]

Another playoff-less spring won’t sit well with the Blackhawks’ brass, who were fine with firing Joel Quenneville after the team’s tough start. General manager Stan Bowman managed to navigate choppy salary cap waters during their last three Stanley Cups victories, but a lack of cap space and impact from cheaper players has hindered them now. 

Come summer, it could be an interesting off-season if Bowman’s able to successful reshape a roster for a 2019-20 comeback.

“It’s a tough league to be good for a long time, especially with the salary cap,” said Kane. “Your younger players get better, everyone wants raises and it’s tough to keep teams together. We’ve seen that a few times with our team where we’ve had to kind of dismantle the team and make some changes. 

“It’s never really fun to see but that’s just the way it is with the league now. You see good teams get worse and teams that are drafting high they seem to get better. That’s just kind of the way it goes.”

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play), AJ Mleczko (analyst) and Joe Micheletti (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.