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Blackhawks will face Minnesota Wild in second round
The Blackhawks can unpack their bags. They’ll be sticking around Chicago for a while.
The Minnesota Wild erased four one-goal deficits and won on Nino Niederreiter’s overtime goal to knock off the Central Division champion Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in Game 7 of their first-round series on Wednesday, setting up a second-round series with the Hawks that will start Friday night at the United Center.
Had Colorado won, the Hawks would have traveled to Denver on Thursday.
“It’s always nice to have home ice,” Corey Crawford said. “Our building definitely plays a factor in a series, just like it did in the first one. We love playing here in Chicago. Our crowd is loud. It definitely gives us some momentum throughout a game.”
The Hawks, who defeated the Wild in five games last spring in the first round, went 2-3 against Minnesota this season. Unlike the freewheeling, high-speed Avalanche, the defensive-minded Wild — led by star defenseman Ryan Suter — will try to turn the series into a slog in front of third-string goalie Darcy Kuemper or fourth-stringer Ilya Bryzgalov. Kuemper had taken the net from Bryzgalov during the series, but left Game 7 in the third period with an injury.
That doesn’t mean the Wild are devoid of offensive talent. Zach Parise had three goals and seven assists in the first round, and Jason Pominville was a 30-goal scorer during the regular season. Veteran Mikko Koivu had 43 assists this year, and young guns Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter give the Wild a little more depth than they had last spring, when they scored just seven goals in the five-game series against the Hawks.
Aside from home-ice advantage, the Hawks didn’t express a preference as to which team they’d rather face. The key, the way they see it, is how they play, not who they play. Their goal was simply to continue the strong play that allowed them to win four straight against the St. Louis Blues.
“I don’t think you lose it,” Joel Quenneville said of momentum. “Both teams have it in a new series. You want to try to keep it, sustain it, and if you don’t get it, you want to make sure you get it back. For sure, the team that wins tonight will be sky high and excited about starting the series. It’s not like we’ve been off that long, and you know how hard and challenging it was. That last series should give us excitement in our game, as well. And getting off to a better start than the first series is what we’ve talked about.”
COMPLETE ROUND 2 SCHEDULE
Wild vs. Blackhawks
GAME 1: Friday, May 2: at Hawks, 8:30 p.m.
GAME 2: Sunday, May 4: at Hawks, 2 p.m.
GAME 3: Tuesday, May 6: at Wild, 8 p.m.
GAME 4: Friday, May 9: at Wild, TBD
x-GAME 5: Sunday, May 11: at Hawks, TBD
x-GAME 6: Tuesday, May 13: at Wild, TBD
x-GAME 7: Thursday, May 15: at Hawks, TBD