Friday, May 02, 2014
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Preview: Wild At Blackhawks

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[May 02, 2014]  The Minnesota Wild get their second crack at their Central Division rivals in two postseasons when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks for the opener of their Western Conference second-round series on Friday. Minnesota finished eighth in the West in 2012-13 and had the dubious distinction of facing the Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Chicago needed only five games to get past Minnesota and went on to capture the fifth Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

This postseason, the Wild posted a 5-4 overtime victory at Colorado in Game 7 of their first-round matchup to oust the Central Division-champion Avalanche and earn a trip to the second round for the first time since 2003, when they reached the conference final after overcoming 3-1 series deficits against both Colorado and Vancouver. The Blackhawks ended the regular season with back-to-back losses and dropped the first two games of their first-round set versus St. Louis before reeling off four straight victories. Minnesota went 3-1-1 against Chicago in 2013-14, splitting a home-and-home series in late October before posting two one-goal triumphs and dropping a shootout decision.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS

ABOUT THE WILD: Health in the crease was an issue for Minnesota all season, and things haven't changed in the playoffs. Rookie Darcy Kuemper, who replaced an ineffective Ilya Bryzgalov after two games versus Colorado, suffered an upper-body injury with less than 8 1/2 minutes remaining in Game 7 and his status for the series opener against Chicago is unknown. Despite being kept off the scoresheet Wednesday, Zach Parise has been the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Wild as he shares the league lead in playoff scoring with 10 points.

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Minnesota will need to keep a close eye on Jonathan Toews after the Chicago captain scored the game-winning goal in three of the team's four victories over St. Louis in the first round. Toews was second on the club during the regular season with five decisive tallies and is tied for ninth among active players with nine career playoff game-winners. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Patrick Kane scored the other winning goal versus the Blues.

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  1. Neither team should fret if it falls behind in the series as both the Blackhawks and Wild overcame 0-2 deficits in the first round.

  2. Extra time also would be nothing new to these clubs as each went to overtime on four occasions in their first-round matchups.

  3. Minnesota LW Matt Cooke has three contests remaining on his seven-game suspension for kneeing Colorado D Tyson Barrie and is eligible to return for Game 4.

SERIES PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 5

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