Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

The Minnesota Wild have proven a foil to the Blackhawks lately. Whether it’s been indoors or outdoors, the blowout victory of the come-from-behind variety, the Wild have stymied the Blackhawks in all of their regular-season outings the past season and a half.

Now, they meet again on Wednesday night. Is this a measurement-stick game? Maybe. A critical game? Certainly. The Blackhawks’ biggest test is on this road trip right in front of them. And if the Blackhawks want to get back atop the Western Conference standings, they have to beat them.

“It’s not, you have to catch them or it’s a failure,” Brian Campbell said. “But our goal is to make the playoffs and have the highest seed possible, so to get that we’re going to have to catch Minnesota.”

The Blackhawks trail the Wild, who beat the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, by six points entering Wednesday night's game. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, winning seven of their last 10. The Blackhawks know the Wild have set the new standard and they have to play their best hockey to measure up to it.

“If we look back to the week where we played these guys and Washington a few nights before that, everyone was talking about those being some pretty big tests and we didn’t really answer the call at that time,” Jonathan Toews said. “It wasn’t our best, the way we were playing. The way we’re playing on the road right now going into [Wednesday’s] game, we can really get excited for this game and try to redeem ourselves with a solid road effort.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

You could compare the Wild’s current roll with the one they had in the second half of the 2014-15 season, but this Minnesota team seems different. As coach Joel Quenneville said, these Wild are deeper and, “have more balance up front. Four lines that are looking like they could score and make plays and are trying to score more.”

“They have balance, a back end and are strong in the net. We’re having trouble beating them in the regular season,” Quenneville said. “It’s a huge game for us, probably at this stage, for sure, our most important game. You want to finish first, you want to win as often as possible, you want to push the team ahead of you if you’re not there. but certainly there’s a gap there we’re looking to close.”

The Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Wild on Jan. 15, a game they led 2-0 before Minnesota came back, apparently has stuck in the craw of some players.

“I think a lot of the guys still feel bad about that last game, so we’ll be pumped to play them,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “It’s a big game for us. We want to be first in the division and we want to get [one] back for the last time.”

Despite the Blackhawks’ recent up and downs and the Wild’s consistent play, the gap between the two isn’t so big. It’s certainly not insurmountable. The Wild have set the regular-season benchmark. The Blackhawks want to match it.

“You look across the league, [teams like] Columbus, Washington and Minnesota that get on those hot streaks and eventually they set the new standard where they have a ton of confidence and, even when they’re not playing so well, they’re finding ways to win,” Toews said. “Obviously they’re a tough team to beat right now, so that’s something we’ll be ready for.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?


Hawks Talk Podcast: Are the Blackhawks relying too much on Corey Crawford?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Adam Burish joins Pat Boyle to breakdown the Hawks’ recent four-game points streak, Corey Crawford's second star of the week honors and Brandon Saad’s best stretch of hockey since he returned to Chicago.

Burish talks about the criticism that Nick Schmaltz receives, the tweaks to the power play and whether he is impressed with how the team leaders have handled the coaching change.

Burish also shares his thoughts on Joel Quenneville attending Sunday night’s Bears game, Eddie Olczyk’s "One More Shift" and shares a couple off-ice stories about Patrick Kane.

:36 - What have you seen over this four-game points streak?

2:35 - Crow is second star of the week, are the Hawks relying too much on Crawford?

4:00 - Crow: no soft goals and rebound control

5:30 - Problems exiting zone cleanly

8:00 - Art of the hoister

9:40 - Best Saad has looked?

10:45 - Schmaltz inconsistencies

12:30 - New wrinkles on Power Play

16:30 - Sikura call up?

18:00 - Leaders handling coaching change

22:00 - What Q’s been up to

25:00 - Burish Beauty

26:00 - Edzo's One More Shift and Hockey Fight’s Cancer Night

28:30 - Kane’s 21st Birthday and off-ice 88 story

Listen to the full Hawks Talk Podcast right here:

Corey Crawford named NHL's second star of the week

Corey Crawford named NHL's second star of the week

Corey Crawford was named the NHL's second star of the week after going 2-0-1 with a 0.65 goals-against average, .980 save percentage and a shutout.

The Blackhawks netminder kicked things off by stopping all 28 shots faced in a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Wedensday night. He then recorded 31 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night, and concluded the week with a stellar 39-save performance in a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday.

Prior to Wednesday, the Blackhawks had been on an eight-game losing streak. In the last three games, the team recorded five out of a possible six points, and Crawford is a big reason why.

In 12 games this season, Crawford is 5-6-1 with a 2.44 goals against average, .922 save percentage, and a shutout.

Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (five goals and eight points in three games) and San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (five goals and six points in three games) were named the first and third stars, respectively.