The Blackhawks and Wild meet for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. The Blackhawks eliminated the Wild in five games in the first round in 2013 and in six games in the second round in 2014. The Blackhawks went 6-0 at the United Center in the two series.
“There’s always the nerves and the jitters, but we haven’t had a lot of success in this building in the postseason the last couple of years,” said Wild assistant captain Zach Parise. “We want to switch that around. We want to change that. It’ll be a good test for us starting Game 1 and we want to have a good first two games here.”
* Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will start his first game since Game 2 against the Nashville Predators in the first round. He allowed nine goals in four periods in the first two games against Nashville and was replaced by Scott Darling as the starter. Crawford relieved Darling in the first period of Game 6 and stopped all 13 shots he faced. He has started 57 playoff games for the Blackhawks.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk was outstanding in the first-round victory against the St. Louis Blues. He was 4-2 with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage and he’ll need to continue his winning streak if Minnesota has any chance of beating the Blackhawks. He won both of the last two regular-season games against Chicago, but he’s not concerned with what he did in the past and isn’t scared of what’s ahead.
“No heebie-jeebies, but certainly not taking that record as any sort of head start against these guys,” Dubnyk said. “This is a team that proves over and over again that they know how to get it done at this time of the year and that means we’re going to have to be at our very best every game to beat them. We certainly believe that we can give them a real good shot and we’re looking forward to getting started tonight.”
* The Wild’s power play went 2-of-34 against the Blackhawks in their previous two playoff series. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill struggled in the first round against the Predators. The Blackhawks allowed six power-play goals on 22 opportunities.
The Wild went 4-for-12 on the power play in the first round against the Blues, including 3-for-7 on the road. While Minnesota is more concerned with its 5-on-5 play, it also realizes scoring on the man-advantage or stifling Chicago’s PP could be the difference in this series.
“In years past, we haven’t had a lot of power-play success against these guys and if you lose one-goal games, popping one in on the power play could make a big difference,” Parise said. “At the same time, we haven’t had a great power play this season and we’ve been winning 5-on-5, so that’s a big part of our strength. If we can get one on the power play, it would be a huge bonus for us.”
* Toews led the Blackhawks with eight points in the first round. Toews and Sharp each scored a team-high three goals against the Predators. Sharp has scored at least one goal in 17 consecutive playoff series for the Blackhawks.
Here are the projected line combinations and defensive pairings for the Blackhawks:
Here are the projected line combinations and defensive pairings for the Wild: