Remember the Chicago Blackhawks? Pretty nice team not far from here, three Cups not long ago, big history as a Minnesota rival?
How about when Patrick Kane got a lucky bounce off a stanchion and won a 2014 playoff series for the Hawks at the X against the Wild?
Yeah, those Blackhawks. That rivalry. Hey, seems like forever.
The Wild plays in Chicago on Friday night, then faces the Blackhawks at Xcel on Saturday in the sudden resumption of an interrupted feud.
The last regular-season meeting between the teams was on Feb. 4, 2020, when Matt Dumba's overtime goal gave the Wild a 3-2 victory 10 days before Bruce Boudreau was fired as the team's coach.
The last game at United Center was on Dec. 15, 2019, when Kane, yep, that guy, had a hat trick in a Chicago victory.
COVID scuttled the end of that season, and last season the Wild played in a makeshift West Division, never facing the Blackhawks.
"Seems like it has been been a while," said Dean Evason, who hasn't yet been the Wild head coach for a game against Chicago.
The Blackhawks, Cup winners in 2010, 2013 and 2015, still have Jonathan Toews and Kane, the leading scorers during those runs. But they're in rebuild mode, out of the postseason in three of the past four years, and struggling below .500 this season.
"Played them a lot during the years," said Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has 36 career games against Chicago during his 15 NHL seasons. "Had a couple of games that went sideways and crazy, especially with some of those championship teams. They still have those top-end guys, and they can make you pay. And the style they play is pretty similar to the style they've played for the past 10-15 years."
The Wild has the edge in the all-time rivalry with a 49-23-5 regular season edge. But — and it's a big "but" — the Blackhawks won all three playoff series between the teams.
"The players that they still have, obviously still some special guys, future Hall of Famers, they're some of the best players in the world," said center Nico Sturm, who will face the Blackhawks for the first time in his 94th career game.
Goalie Cam Talbot, sidelined since the New Year's Day's Winter Classic, will be with the team in Chicago as Kaapo Kahkonen starts his fifth consecutive game.
"[Talbot] won't back up tomorrow, but the plan is for him to back up on Saturday … but we'll see what happens," Evason said. "There's nothing set."
Talbot, chosen for the Feb. 3 All-Star Game, participated in a lively practice Thursday at Tria Rink as he rebounds from a lower body malady.
Center Ryan Hartman didn't practice Thursday; he was "under the weather," Evason said, but came to the rink for a COVID-19 test, which turned up negative. He traveled with the team to Chicago and is expected to play Friday.
Hartman and linemates Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello are the team's top scorers, combining for 43 goals and 63 assists.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower body) practiced and appears to be close to returning for a game.
Stretch run rush
The Wild has played only six games since Dec. 16 because of COVID-related postponements. With the NHL not participating in the Olympics, the three-week "Olympic Break" in February was peppered with makeup games, and the Wild eventually will have 41 games in 81 days to finish the season.
"I saw the new schedule came out and my body started hurting," joked Sturm. "It's gonna be like last year, it's either game day or it's not game day."