Blackhawks

NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Will Bruce Boudreau bring Wild postseason success?

NHL 2016-17 Central Division preview: Will Bruce Boudreau bring Wild postseason success?

CSN Chicago will unveil a preview each day for every Central Division team leading up to the NHL's season-opener. Next up: Minnesota Wild.

In 10 seasons as a head coach in the National Hockey League, Bruce Boudreau has led his teams to a division title in eight of them. He turned around the Washington Capitals by coaching them to a division crown in 2007-08 a year after missing the playoffs and helped the Anaheim Ducks do the same in 2012-13 — after being hired midseason in 2011-12 and failing to qualify for the postseason.

And the Wild are hoping he can do much of the same in Minnesota.

The difference between Boudreau's two former teams compared to the Wild is that he's inheriting an aging core group of Zach Parise (32 years old), Ryan Suter (31) and Eric Staal (31), not superstars like Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin or Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Also, this year's Central Division may be the deepest it's ever been — which didn't seem possible after last year — so there are no guarantees of even securing a playoff spot.

Despite all that and through their ups and downs, it's still a Wild team that has found a way to punch their ticket to the postseason for four consecutive seasons and the coaching staff Boudreau assembled in John Anderson and Scott Stevens is a perfect leadership group that can help lead the charge and break through in May.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016-17 season, Blackhawks fans!]

But it won't be easy considering they snuck into a playoff spot last season with 87 points, the lowest point total a Western Conference playoff team has finished with in 17 years. The cutoff this year is likely to be at least 95.

The good news is, there's room for improvement.

Last season, the Wild ranked 18th in goals per game (2.60), finished in the bottom-eight in puck possession numbers, were in the middle of the pack in power play percentage (18.5) and had the fourth-worst penalty kill percentage (77.9).

Boudreau's Ducks ranked first in both special teams categories last year and finished among the top-five in possession numbers.

If Parise can stay healthy and a rejuvenated Staal can revert back to the 50-plus point player he's consistently been throughout his career, on top of Ryan Suter anchoring the back end and continuing to perform at a Norris Trophy-type level, the Wild have the ability to stay in the playoff picture.

It's hard to imagine them competing for the top seed, but it shouldn't matter anyways. They will be judged by how deep they play into the spring.

Other previews: Colorado Avalanche | Dallas Stars

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

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AP

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

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AP

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: