Wild at Blackhawks
Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has no qualms about getting creative with his lineup as he attempts to navigate his way around early-season injuries in search of the team's first victory. With Zach Parise (undisclosed) and Mikael Granlund (groin) sidelined, Boudreau admitted he'll likely shuffle the deck on Thursday as the Wild visit the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
"In a perfect world, would you like 12 (forwards) and six (defensemen)? Yeah," said Boudreau, who likely will send 11 forwards and seven defensemen to the ice versus Chicago. "I think this is a great challenge. I don't think it will happen all year long. Time will tell, but usually things work their way out." Minnesota traditionally is one of the stingiest teams in the league, but it has allowed eight goals through two games and faces a Blackhawks contingent that has erupted for 21 in four contests. Captain Jonathan Toews, who recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) versus Minnesota last season, set up Brandon Saad's team-leading fifth tally in a 3-1 win over Montreal on Tuesday.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NHL.TV, FSN North (Minnesota), NBCSN Chicago
ABOUT THE WILD (0-1-1): Chris Stewart will never be confused with Parise when it comes to offensive firepower, but the former has scored in both contests this season and added an assist to catch the eye of Boudreau. "On the goals, he's done a great job. He's got a very good offensive IQ, he always has. That's never been Chris Stewart's problem," Boudreau said. "We're hoping his start continues, it's a good start for him, it certainly is something that's added that you're not really counting on but he is scoring the goals." Speaking of Parise, he was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and is loosely being targeted for a potential return to the ice next weekend, Boudreau said.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (3-0-1): Corey Crawford turned aside 41 of 42 shots against his hometown team on Tuesday to improve to 3-0-0 while keeping his goals-against average at 1.00 and boosting his save percentage to a robust .971. The 32-year-old Crawford won three of four encounters with Minnesota last season and boasts a 10-8-2 career mark versus the Wild. Saad's seven points are just one better than both Patrick Kane and Richard Panik, who torched Minnesota last season for five points (three goals, two assists) and four (two goals, two assists), respectively.
1. Minnesota D Ryan Suter has recorded five goals and 28 assists in 66 career games versus Chicago, with the point total accounting for his highest against any team.
2. The Blackhawks boast six players who are averaging at least a point per game.
3. Minnesota F Marcus Foligno has elevated from the third to the top line in lieu of injuries to Parise and Granlund.