The Blackhawks are stuck at the bottom of the Central Division, in the midst of a four-game slide and without their No.1 goaltender.

But that hasn’t made Chicago less of a challenge in the Wild’s eyes ahead of the two teams’ clash Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.



“You look at their team and what they’ve done in the past, it’s really remarkable,” winger Mikael Granlund said. “So that’s a really good team, and I don’t think anyone’s taking them lightly.”

Although there’s eight points separating the two teams in the NHL pecking order, the season series has been split so far. After an impressive 5-2 win in Chciago Oct.12, the Wild was blanked 2-0 at home Nov.4; the ensuring two games in Chicago were a 4-1 loss and 2-1 win.

“They have a lot of skill,” Granlund said. “They play pretty good defense, too. That’s a really good team out there. It’s going to be a fun battle out there.”

This mentality seems especially appropriate on the heels of the 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes Thursday, a deflating loss considering the Wild at one point sported a 3-0 lead. Arizona ranks last in the NHL but had no problem rallying against a desperate Wild team in a tight playoff race.

“We weren’t happy with last game,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “We had a good video session yesterday, and we sort of reset this morning and yesterday as well. This is a big game for us.”

Projected lineup:

Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Tyler Ennis

Zach Parise-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle

Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik

Ryan Suter- Jared Spurgeon

Gustav Olofsson-Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly-Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Key numbers:

8-0-3: The Wild’s record at home in its last 11 games, which is the longest point streak at Xcel Energy Center in franchise history.

12: Points for center Eric Staal in his last nine games.

10-4-1: The Wild’s record against the Blackhawks in the last 15 games.

499: Assists for Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane in his career.

4: Straight defeats for Chicago.

About the Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks have been unable to climb out of the basement of the Central Division after dropping eight of their past 10 games. Chicago is still without goalie Corey Crawford (upper-body injury), leaving Jeff Glass and Anton Forsberg to handle the netminding duties. Kane leads the team in goals (21), assists (32) and points (53). The Blackhawks’ power play ranks 29th at 15.7 percent, while their penalty kill is tied for fifth (82.8 percent). Chicago is 6-8-2 against its Central Division rivals.