Blackhawks

Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

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Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

Prior to Game 2 of their second-round series against the Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild had yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation since acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk back in January.

A 4-1 loss put the Wild down two games in the series, but if you ask coach Mike Yeo, the team that lost on Sunday isn't the same group he's seen over the last four months.

"I don't know what team played that game, but it wasn't us," he said after the loss. "It was 0-0 through the midway point of the game. We were doing some OK things without the puck to keep it at 0-0, but with the puck, like I said, that's not us."

Part of Minnesota's struggles had more to do with the Blackhawks putting on a stronger defensive performance from Corey Crawford on out. It took the Wild nearly half the first period to register a shot on goal and until the third for Matt Dumba to find the back of the net.

But there were mistakes Minnesota made defensively that gave the Blackhawks too many opportunities that they managed to capitalize on. Much of that, Yeo believes, is due to where the team's focus was heading into the game.

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"I think the way we went into this game, obviously we put a great deal of importance, but when that happens quite often you have to make sure the focus is right and the focus is on the process," Yeo continued. "I think we were focused on the goal and focused on the win and not focused on the things we needed to do."

The Wild head back home in an unfavorable situation, down two games against the team that ended their season in each of the last two postseasons.

But after facing the Blackhawks multiple years in a row, they feel they have a better grasp on the team and the way they play. Now the Wild will be back at home in front of their crowd, and they hope that can spark some change as they shift their focus heading into Game 3.

"We know they know how to win hockey games, and we know how good of a team they are," Nino Niederreiter said of the Blackhawks. "We gotta make sure we focus on us, and (Sunday) I feel like we were thinking too much about them instead of playing our game and the hockey we know how to play. I think we played the game in their favor, and we gotta make sure we bounce back (Tuesday) and play our game."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.