Chicago Blackhawks (+103) at Minnesota Wild (-114, 5 o/u)
The Chicago Blackhawks (44-25-7, 95 pts) have been on cruise control for the last month, seemingly focused more on getting to the playoffs healthy than grabbing the number-one seed. But with just two weeks left in the season, they’ll need to wake up soon. The Blackhawks will visit the Minnesota Wild (37-28-11, 85 pts) tonight at the Xcel Energy Center (8:00 PM Eastern) looking to avoid a season series sweep.
The Blackhawks are four points behind the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues, who are currently fighting for the top seed in the West. However, Chicago is also just four points up on Nashville, who sit in the first Wild Card spot and seem headed for a first-round matchup with the powerhouse Los Angeles Kings.
After losing six of seven games, the Hawks have bagged two wins in a row over lowly Calgary and Vancouver to help get some confidence back . Yet their special teams remain awful: Chicago has gone 0-23 with the man advantage in their last eight games.
Worse still for the Hawks: Minnesota has owned them this season, winning all four matchups to date.
The Wild enter tonight with the additional motivation of trying to close out the Wild Card race. With 85 points through 76 games, they sit just three ahead of division rival Colorado. Unlike Chicago, the Wild are playing some of their best hockey of the season at just the right time. The team has won five straight, including a 3-2 shootout win in the Windy City a little over a week ago.
Blackhawk goalie Corey Crawford, who is firmly in the hunt for the Vezina trophy, is still nursing an upper-body injury. Scott Darling is scheduled to make his seventh straight start. Crawford being out won’t help Chicago bump its slump, but Darling hasn’t been the issue lately; he has posted a 2.23 GAA in the last six.
That said, given that the Wild are at home, have dominated the Hawks all year, and are rolling at the moment, take Minny on the moneyline.
Pick: Minnesota (-114).
(Photo credit: grilled cheese (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/)].)