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Wild Head To Chicago To Battle Blackhawks

(Sports Network) - After a so-so road trip, the Chicago Blackhawks return to the United Center tonight hoping to avoid a seventh loss in nine contests with the opener of a three-game homestand versus the Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks return to the Windy City off a 2-2-2 road trip, dropping the final two contests of the swing in a shootout to Dallas and Phoenix. They are 16-13-0 at home this season, but have lost two straight.

Duncan Keith and Troy Brouwer had regulation goals versus the Coyotes on Saturday, but Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa failed on shootout bids in a 3-2 setback. Kane also came up short on an overtime breakaway and Corey Crawford ended with 23 saves in net.

"I thought we had a good third period and we had a good look there before the shootout," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville.

Hossa did log an assist to record his 800th NHL point.

Kane has five goals and four assists in six games this month, but is questionable for tonight due to flu-like symptoms that held him out of practice on Tuesday. Jake Dowell (flu-like symptoms) and Fernando Pisani (head) are also questionable.

The Blackhawks will also be without Quenneville after the coach was admitted to the hospital early on Wednesday. Though no specifics were given of Quenneville's ailment, Dr. Michael Terry did say in a release on the team's website that it is not of cardiac nature.

Assistant coach Mike Haviland will take over Quenneville's role on the bench tonight.

"We certainly wish Joel a speedy recovery and we will do everything possible to support him and his family throughout the process," said Chicago general manager Stan Bowman.

Minus their head coach, the Blackhawks could certainly use Kane tonight as they are four points back of a playoff spot. The Wild are bit closer, tied for ninth in the Western Conference standings and one point behind the eighth- place Flames. Minnesota had a three-game win streak end and fell to 9-3 in its 12 games with a 4-1 home setback last night to Vancouver.

Niklas Backstrom faced just 13 shots, but allowed three to get by him. Cal Clutterbuck scored his fourth goal in three games to lift his career-high season total to 18.

"They deserved to win -- they capitalized on their chances and we failed to do so, but I thought we played well enough to win the game," said Clutterbuck.

Minnesota also had a four-game home winning streak end and are hoping tonight to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game slide from Jan. 9-14.

The Wild, who have won five of their last seven on the road, could go with Jose Theodore over Backstrom because of play on back-to-back nights. Theodore is 6-6-1 with a 2.60 goals-against average in his career versus the Blackhawks, while Backstrom is 4-5-0 with a 2.60 GAA against them.

The Wild earned a 4-2 road win when these clubs last met on Jan. 25, their seventh victory in the last 10 trips to the United Center. The Blackhawks have still won four of the last six matchups overall.

Crawford allowed four goals on 22 shots in that January meeting, while Brouwer scored to give him a pair of goals and an assist in the two meetings.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.