Wild renews Blackhawks rivalry with two games in three days

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2013 - 12:42 AM

They’ll try to steal a page from the Blackhawks on puck control.

 

Zach Parise is pretty positive about the way the Wild has been playing, but Minnesota’s leading scorer is also a realist and always up for a challenge.

“We haven’t seen Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, San Jose. We haven’t seen any of those top teams yet, so for us to play these guys and see where we’re at, you can’t get a better opponent than the Blackhawks,” Parise said. “It’s still going to be the team to beat in the Western Conference.”

Saturday night at the United Center, the Wild opens up an old-fashioned home-and-home series against its new Central Division rival that concludes Monday in St. Paul. It’ll be the first time the Wild meets Chicago since it was dispatched in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the first round of last year’s playoffs.

“It doesn’t feel like that long ago that we were in their building, they were coming here and we were going head-to-head in the playoffs,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “Should be emotional games, should be fun games.”

Minutes before last year’s series-opening game in Chicago, veteran goalie Niklas Backstrom dropped to his knees during warmups. Backstrom had to be helped off the ice and wasn’t heard from again, suffering a season-ending sports hernia. Backstrom says “it still hurts” that he couldn’t be there for his teammates after the long road to get back in the playoffs.

Coincidentally, Backstrom’s first start since straining his right knee Oct. 8 will come Saturday in Chicago because Josh Harding, who took the reins from Backstrom last spring, suffered a “lower-body” strain in Thursday’s victory over Carolina.

The good news, Yeo said, is Harding, who has given up eight goals in nine games, was feeling better Friday and isn’t expected to be out long.

“He’s played a lot of hockey. He’s done a great job for us,” Yeo said. “It would be foolish to put him into a game if he’s not 100 percent. Backs came in and played well, so we’ll give Hards a chance to fully rest and fully recover.”

Backstrom says his knee isn’t 100 percent yet, but Yeo said, “I know what he’s capable of and he showed it [Thursday] night, so I don’t see why he can’t do it for a 60-minute game.”

Backstrom is 0-0-2 in four appearances this season with a 2.98 goals-against average and .867 save percentage. He had an average training camp, followed by a slow start to the season.

“Every time you have a surgery, it takes time,” Backstrom, 35, said. “You’re always cleared to play at some point, but it always takes time to be back to normal, to get everything where it should be. It’s still something I’m working on every day to get the strength back where it was.”

The Wild is 5-3-3 and looks to be a different team than the first two years under Yeo. With the exception of maybe Thursday’s game, the Wild typically has the puck the majority of the game.

Puck possession was its downfall last spring against Chicago.

“Our puck possession game has been really good,” Parise said. “It’s almost a little page out of [the Blackhawks’] book the way they played against us last year. So now we’ll see how well we can do it against a really good team that holds onto the puck as well.

“Faceoffs are going to be important. Last year, it felt like if they won the draw, you didn’t see the puck the rest of the shift.”

The Wild is the NHL’s third-best faceoff team in the early part of this season, while Chicago ranks 13th.

“They are well-organized and they play their defense very well. It’s a big challenge,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “We have to go in and break that. We’ve been playing a little different from last year. I think any team tries to bring something new each and every year, and so are we.

“Now we’ll see if it works against them.”

Yeo is looking forward to the challenge.

“We’ve talked a lot about what we’ve done with the puck, but our guys have done a very good job without the puck as well,” he said. “The structure of the game has been good whether it’s the D zone, whether it’s the rush, whether it’s through the neutral zone.

“But the way I see it, this is another test — this is a highly skilled group. What we saw from those guys last year is we all know what the [Patrick] Kanes and [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Sharps and Marian Hossas can do. But where I think they really hurt us last year was the depth of their team. Their third and fourth lines scoring goals and contributing offensively against us, that was problematic and something we have to be ready for.”

  • related content

  • Video: Wild Minute: Backstrom must step up

    Saturday October 26, 2013

    With Josh Harding injured, the Wild needs Niklas Backstrom to fight through the rust

  • Gameday preview: Wild at Chicago

    Friday October 25, 2013

    wild gameday7 P.M. at CHICAGO • UNITED CENTER • FSN, 100.3-FMPreview: The Wild has won four in a row at...

  • Wild notes: Coyle could be back next week

    Saturday October 26, 2013

    Charlie Coyle and Keith Ballard both practiced Friday but did not travel with the Wild to Chicago.

  • Chicago's Patrick Sharp celebrated with teammate Michal Handzus after he beat Wild goalie Josh Harding for a 1-0 Blackhawks lead during the 2013 NHL playoffs. Chicago won the series in five games.

  • Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp, left

  • Captain Mikko Koivu and the Wild will face a Blackhawks team about which Koivu said, “They are well-organized and they play their defense very well.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Orlando 89
Indiana 109 FINAL
Detroit 119
Milwaukee 107 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Houston 117 FINAL
Memphis 111
San Antonio 90 FINAL
New Orleans 97
Charlotte 75 FINAL
Oklahoma City 98
LA Lakers 98 FINAL
Dallas 102
Minnesota 102 FINAL
Denver 106
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Portland 114
Phoenix 115 FINAL
Sacramento 106
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 1:10 PM
Duke
Miami-Florida 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close