CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks will look to stay unbeaten in regulation time when they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at the United Center.
Chicago (3-0-1) has won both of its games on home ice and has outscored opponents 21-7 so far this season. The Blackhawks have six players who are averaging at least a point per game.
Meanwhile, Minnesota (0-1-1) is looking for its first win of the season and figures to be well rested after a four-day break between games. The Wild allowed nine goals and scored six in their first two games.
Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau expects to rely on an unorthodox lineup because of injuries to top forwards Zach Parise (undisclosed) and Mikael Granlund (groin). He likely will play 11 forwards and seven defensemen, mixing and matching his four offensive lines as the game goes along.
“In a perfect world, would you like 12 (forwards) and six (defensemen)? Yeah,” Boudreau said. “I think this is a great challenge. I don’t think it will happen all year long. Time will tell, but usually things work their way out.”
For the Blackhawks, nearly everything worked out in the first four games. Chicago enjoyed a lead at the end of the first and second period in every game, and its only setback came in overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Chicago left winger Brandon Saad leads the team with five goals and two assists. Right winger Patrick Kane (two goals, four assists) is one of three Blackhawks who have notched six points in the first four games.
On Tuesday night, Blackhawks rookie Alex DeBrincat joined the fun with his first NHL goal against Montreal. The 19-year-old hopes to keep the momentum going when he and his teammates return home to face the Wild.
DeBrincat credited veteran linemate Patrick Sharp with easing his transition to the NHL.
“He’s always talking to me, always trying to give me advice on where to be and how to play at this level,” DeBrincat said in Montreal. “He has been a big help to me.”
Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk likely will be given the responsibility of cooling the Blackhawks. The next win will mark Dubnyk’s 100th victory with the franchise, which acquired him during the 2014-15 campaign.
Dubnyk is 99-55-13 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .924 save percentage with Minnesota. In his 20 career games against the Blackhawks, the 31-year-old is 10-7-0 with a 3.06 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford will try to stay hot against the Wild. The 32-year-old carries a remarkable .971 save percentage (three goals allowed on 104 shots) into the game.
In 21 career games against Minnesota, Crawford is 10-8-2 with a 2.48 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
Boudreau said a fast start would be necessary to keep pace with the Blackhawks in a hostile environment.
“We can’t fall behind 2-0 like we did every game last year, that’s for sure,” Boudreau said. “They’re feeling it right now.
“A lot of different players in the lineup, but they still happen to have ’88’ (Kane) and ’19’ (Jonathan Toews) and ‘2’ (Duncan Keith) and ’50’ (Crawford) and ’20’ (Saad) is not bad, ‘7’ (Brent Seabrook) is pretty good. Yeah, they’re a good team.”
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