The first-place Chicago Blackhawks travel to St. Paul to face Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
When a star player like Zach Parise leads your team in scoring, one would assume that the team is winning while scoring by the bunch. Couple that with a traditionally solid goaltender in Dubnyk, and Minnesota (0-1-1) should have a respectable start to the season. While Dubnyk has continued to show his excellence between the pipes early, the Wild offense has been head-scratchingly dormant.
Through two games, Minnesota has only scored twice, including one by Parise. A clear lapse in production has caused Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau to shuffle young winger Joel Eriksson Ek to the top line. Hoping to kickstart the young Swede’s offensive juices, Boudreau and the Wild continue to hold steady behind Dubnyk’s .963 save percentage.
As for the Blackhawks, they have not won a game in regulation this season. Still, Chicago (2-0-1) remains atop the Central Division. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have combined for 12 points, including nine goals in only three games. The addition of Henri Jokiharju to the top defensive pairing has added five assists, and helped ignite the offensive surge with the third highest concentration of shots on goal. While the scoring has certainly improved, there are a few areas of concern.
Alexandre Fortin will draw into the lineup on the third line for his NHL debut. The 21-year-old will provide some additional speed to the Blackhawks. He did not score in two games with the Rockford IceHogs this season. Fortin had 21 points (four goals, 17 assists) in 54 AHL games last season despite missing 23 games due to a lower-body injury.
Chicago’s power-play has looked horrendous to start the season as they have gone scoreless. Subsequently, the Hawks have also struggled on the penalty-kill as the team has allowed four power-play goals in 11 attempts.
Cam Ward has been the mail carrier for the Blackhawks, and will make his fourth consecutive start in net. He has a 4.63 goals-against average and .843 save percentage.