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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 9th (All times Eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (29-5-4) at Minnesota Wild (22-14-2), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - With a playoff spot already locked up, the Chicago Blackhawks look to move closer to a second Central Division title in four years on Tuesday night when they visit the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks, who began the season with an NHL-record 24-game point streak (21-0-3), punched their fifth straight ticket to the playoffs with a 5-3 victory over the visiting Nashville Predators on Sunday to sweep a home-and- home set.
Jonathan Toews tallied the game-winner with 9:28 left to play, while Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad also tallied for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane had an empty-net goal and Ray Emery made 19 saves to help his club improve to 4-0-1 in its last five games.
"We obviously wanted to stay in the spot we're in in the standings," Toews said, "But first and foremost, our goal coming in every season is making the playoffs."
With 62 points, the Blackhawks are three ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Western Conference and four up on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most points in the NHL.
Chicago, which last won the Central Division during its Stanley Cup-winning campaign in 2009-10, is 18 points ahead of the St. Louis Blues for first place in the division.
With such a big lead in the standings, the Blackhawks haven't had to rush back forward Patrick Sharp, who has missed the last 14 games with a shoulder injury. Dave Bolland, meanwhile, sat out his second game in a row on Sunday because of lower body ailment.
The Wild are also in the hunt for a division title as they sit second in the Northwest standings with 46 points. That is four back of the Vancouver Canucks, but Minnesota has a game in hand. The Canucks are idle on Tuesday after beating visiting Phoenix 2-0 on Monday.
The Wild snapped a three-game slide on Sunday by salvaging the finale of a three-game trip with a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ryan Suter and Charlie Coyle both had power-play goals, while Jason Pominville added a goal and an assist.
Pominville picked up his first points with the Wild in his second game since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres prior to Wednesday's trade deadline.
Niklas Backstrom made the offensive support stand up with 24 saves, notching his second shutout of the season and 28th of his career.
"What you saw tonight is what our game is supposed to look like," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I really liked a lot of players tonight. I thought everybody was on top of their game."
The Blackhawks have been on top of their game as of late versus the Wild. They are 5-0-3 in the past eight meetings in this series and had dropped three straight in a shootout to Minnesota before notching a 5-3 home win on March 5.
Two of those shootout losses came in Minnesota.
04/09 11:07:09 ET