It's early February but already it's pretty much a given the Wild and Blackhawks will make the NHL playoffs when the season ends in two months. The Wild entered Tuesday night's game at Winnipeg four points ahead of the Hawks in the Central Division and three games in hand. Nashville is a distant 11 points back of Chicago.
Minnesota has won the last eight regular-season games over the Blackhawks, and the boys on Madison St. are amped to come north for Wednesday night's game in St. Paul.
In a Chicago Sun Times article posted Tuesday afternoon, the Hawks' Patrick Kane called it 'our biggest game of the year.'
Added captain Jonathan Toews: "We’ve still got a ways to go, [but] every chance we get against this team, we know it can be a four-point swing,"
The game was already assured to be a festive affair; Wild fans haven't seen their first-place team on home ice since Jan. 26. Then came the All-Star break and a four-game Wild road trip through Canada. Wednesday's game kicks off a season-long eight-game homestand.
The Blackhawks always add a bit of extra oomph in the Xcel Energy Center atmosphere, and it certainly appears the players feel it as well. And for what it's worth, Chicago returns to St. Paul on Feb. 21.