NHL

Wild host Blackhawks on TSN2 in battle of first-place teams

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The Sports Network
12/14/2011 12:31:07 PM
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(Sports Network) - An intriguing matchup between Western Conference powers is on tap tonight in Minnesota, where the Wild entertain the Chicago Blackhawks in a battle of division leaders from Xcel Energy Center.

Catch the action live on TSN2 at 7:30pm et/4:30pm pt.

The Wild lead the Northwest Division and look to get back into the win column after having a season-high seven-game winning streak cut short with Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Winnipeg in the finale of a five-game road trip (4-1-0). Guillaume Latendresse scored the lone goal and Niklas Backstrom turned aside 25 shots for Minnesota, which had a seven-game road winning streak halted as well.

"That's not really indicative of how we've had our success," said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. "I thought we were pretty loose in a lot of areas, in particular with how we played with the puck. We just left a little too much open ice for them and a little too much back and forth. When you do that you turn it into a 50/50 game."

Minnesota was aiming for its first eight-game winning streak since a franchise-best nine-game run from March 8-24, 2007. It has still won 12 of its last 15 games. Dany Heatley played in his 700th career game and has recorded a point in seven straight games for the Wild, who will also host the New York Islanders on this brief homestand and are 10-4-1 in St. Paul, MN this season.

The Wild lead the NHL in wins (20) and points (43). Center Mikko Koivu has recorded a point in 12 of the last 13 games (6g, 11a), while Latendresse returned to the ice last night after missing 15 games (concussion). Wild goaltender Josh Harding (head) is still out and center Matt Cullen (flu) missed Tuesday's game. Cullen could return this evening.

Chicago will shoot for its fifth straight road win when they pay a visit to the Wild tonight, and is tops in the Central Division -- just one point ahead of idle Detroit in the standings.

The Blackhawks have won back-to-back games, both in overtime, and recorded a 3-2 victory versus San Jose on Sunday. Patrick Sharp scored with 34 seconds left in overtime and both Andrew Brunette and Marcus Kruger lit the lamp in the win, Chicago's sixth in its last eight tries. Goaltender Ray Emery stopped 35 shots for the 100th regular-season victory of his NHL career.

"He was great tonight," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of Emery, whose 35 saves were a season high. "They put everything at the net, including bodies, and he was fighting through it all."

Quenneville's team is 9-6-1 on the road this season. Captain Jonathan Toews leads the Western Conference with 20 points (10g, 10a) on the road this year. Sharp has delivered consecutive overtime winners and has nine goals in his last eight games, while Patrick Kane has tallied eight points (1g, 7a) over his last six contests.

Four of Chicago's last five games have reached overtime.

The Blackhawks and Wild are playing the first of four meetings this season. Chicago is 6-1-1 in the series since the start of the 2009-10 campaign and is unbeaten in its last three visits to Minnesota.

Hossa and Toews (Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

TSN's Game Notes

CHI was 3-1-0 vs MIN last season, 2-0-0 in MIN

CHI has gone 6-1-1 over their past 8 games vs MIN, 3-0-1 in MIN in that span

MIN:
MIN is coming off a 4-1-0 road trip, going 15/16 on the PK

MIN has gone 8-2-0 over their past 10 home games, allowing 2 or fewer goals in 8 of the games

Heatley has 3G, 4A during a 7 game PT streak, Koivu has 3G, 4A during a 5 game PT streak

CHI:
CHI has gone 4-0-1 over their past 5 games, going 5/16 on the PP

CHI has won 4 straight on the road, scoring 16G

CHI is 10-0-1 when they score first

Sharp has 6G, 3A during a 6 game PT streak

For games notes for all of tonight's games, click here.

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