January 9th, 2018
One year ago, the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild finished first and second in the Western Conference standings. Things have changed. These same two teams are at the bottom of the Central Division heading into Wednesday’s showdown at the United Center; the puck drops at 8 PM ET on NBCSN.
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It hasn’t been a total disaster for either club. The Central happens to be the dominant division in hockey right now, with zero teams posting a negative goal differential. The last-place Hawks (20-15-6) have a plus-11 differential, while the Wild (22-17-3) have scored exactly as many goals this year as they’ve given up. There’s plenty of time for both to make a playoff run during the second half of the regular season.
Good health will be imperative as always. Minnesota doesn’t have anyone on the injured list, but the Hawks are without four players, including No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford (.929 save percentage), who’s out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Wednesday will be the second of back-to-back games for both clubs; Devan Dubnyk (.916 SV%) is projected to start in net for the Wild opposite either Anton Forsberg (.909 SV%) or Jeff Glass (.908 SV%).
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