The top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks got the result they wanted to open their Western Conference first-round series against the eighth-seeded Minnesota Wild, but the game was full of surprises. Chicago will try for a more conventional victory when it hosts the Wild in Game 2 on Friday. Bryan Bickell scored the overtime winner in Game 1 on Tuesday, beating surprise Minnesota starter Josh Harding with a backhand shot. Harding played in place of Niklas Backstrom after the veteran netminder suffered a lower-body injury during pregame warmups and finished with 35 saves in his first start since Jan. 30.
Making their first playoff appearance since 2008, the Wild kept pace with a more experienced Chicago team looking to fulfill the promise of its first Presidents’ Trophy since 1991 with its second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons. Minnesota held a lead for 17:42 in Game 1 after Cal Clutterbuck opened the scoring 4:48 into the contest. Aside from three shootout victories, Minnesota has not defeated the Blackhawks in 10 contests. The last time the Wild won in regulation at Chicago was Jan. 25, 2011. The Blackhawks slowly solved Minnesota’s stifling defense on Tuesday, recording more shots in each period - six in the first, 10 in the second and 12 in the third - and firing nine on Harding in 16:35 of overtime.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, FSN North (Minnesota), CSN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE WILD: Defenseman Ryan Suter played a major role in shutting down the Blackhawks' potent offense, leading all skaters with 41:08 of ice time on Tuesday. Suter blocked four shots and disrupted many Chicago scoring chances but failed to register a shot on goal. Blue-liner Jared Spurgeon blocked a team-high seven shots. Backstrom is considered day-to-day but was not at practice on Thursday, meaning Harding likely will start Game 2. Trade-deadline acquisition Jason Pominville has missed three games with a concussion and will not play on Friday. Minnesota needs Pominville to return soon - possibly for Game 3 at home on Sunday - as it already is short-handed on the right side with Dany Heatley likely sidelined for the duration of the playoffs following shoulder surgery.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery both missed Game 1 with lower-body injuries, and although Emery worked out before the team’s practice on Thursday, coach Joel Quenneville ruled them out for Friday’s contest. Bolland has missed four games, while Emery has sat out three, leaving Corey Crawford to resume his role as the team’s undisputed starter. Crawford made 26 saves on Tuesday and looked solid after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced. Marian Hossa looked comfortable in his return to postseason action after a hit by Phoenix's Raffi Torres knocked him out of last year’s first-round series against the Coyotes. Hossa scored a power-play goal in regulation and nearly ended the game in overtime when his backhand shot toward an open net was deflected wide by Suter’s stick.
1. Wild D Clayton Stoner, who left Game 1 after being hit hard by Andrew Shaw, will not play on Friday. Justin Falk, a healthy scratch on Tuesday after playing 36 regular-season contests, will take Stoner’s place in the lineup.
2. Minnesota allowed more goals during the regular season (127) than any other playoff team in the West.
3. The Presidents’ Trophy winner has been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round three of the last four seasons.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Wild 1