If the Minnesota Wild are going to become a factor in the Western Conference, games like the one Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center against the top team in hockey will prove to be a test. The Chicago Blackhawks are the top team in the conference and any team that is going to knock them off will need to play perfect hockey. The Wild made one critical mistake and the Blackhawks capitalized on it pulled out yet another road win 1-0.
Currently the Wild sit in sixth place in the west, but are just four points out of first place in the Northwest division which would net them the third seed. Coming off a three game road trip that produced two losses (San Jose and Los Angeles), the team finally picked up the pieces against Columbus on Sunday picking up a nice 3-0 win.
With a game in hand against Vancouver, the Wild are in decent shape to make up ground in and capture the division before the regular season comes to a conclusion on April 27.
With home games against the Blues, Blue Jackets, Flames, Kings and Oilers, the road games include the Flames, Oilers, Sharks and Avalanche to close the season.
On the flip side, the Caucks play six of their final games on the road. Their three home games are with Detroit, Chicago and Anaheim.
After playing a solid defensive brand in the first 35 minutes, Clayton Stoner turned the puck over when trying to center a breakout pass. It ended up on the stick of Marian Hossa who rifled a wrister past Niklas Backstrom for the 1-0 lead.
"I pride myself on trying to play mistake free. That was a costly one," said Stoner. "I feel bad for letting the team down."
Chicago played a solid defensive third period holding the Wild at bay.
"I thought we defended really hard," said head coach Mike Yeo. "But our execution wasn't good enough."
The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 13-4 in the first period and 14-10 in the second. The Wild outshot the Hawks 6-4 in the final period. Offensive zone time was a big factor in the loss as the Wild couldn't sustain any continuous pressure outside of a brief span in the first period.
"They did," said Yeo on Chicago's pressure. "Probably because we didn't spend enough time in theirs."
The Wild remain home and will face St. Louis on Thursday and then Columbus on Saturday before hitting the road for three games.
Wild forward Dany Heatley will miss the remainder of the season after surgery on his left shoulder. Heatley had the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Tony Miniaci.