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22-15-2

Blackhawks-Wild Preview

AP - Sports

While the Chicago Blackhawks have already clinched a playoff spot, the Minnesota Wild hope to improve their postseason position despite an injury to one of their top players.

The NHL-leading Blackhawks look for a third straight victory overall and on the road Tuesday night against the Wild.

Rookie Brandon Saad and captain Jonathan Toews scored 55 seconds apart in the third period Sunday to rally Chicago to a 5-3 home win over Nashville.

Riding a 4-0-1 stretch, the Blackhawks (29-5-4) are headed to the playoffs for a fifth straight season.

"We obviously wanted to stay in the spot we're in in the standings,'' said Toews, who has three goals and five assists in five games. "First and foremost, our No. 1 goal coming in every season is we want to make the playoffs."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, Bryan Bickell scored in his second straight game and Ray Emery made 19 saves after making 20 in Saturday's 1-0 win at Nashville. Chicago also kept the Predators scoreless on four power-play chances over the weekend, and have killed 17 straight penalties over 10 games.

The Blackhawks have the edge over Anaheim in the Western Conference and East-leading Pittsburgh in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

"We're very happy with what we've accomplished, but we still want to keep trying to get better in games," coach Joel Quenneville told the NHL's official website. "Playing the right way is what we're going to be stressing here the last 10 (games) and that's important. We'd like to finish as high as we can, that's a priority as well, but that's what the motivation is."

Chicago, which snapped a three-game slide to Minnesota (22-14-2) with a 5-3 home win March 5, has at least one point in eight straight (5-0-3) against the Wild. The last three meetings at Minnesota ended in a shootout, with the Wild winning the last two. Their 3-2 home win Jan. 30 ended the Blackhawks' 6-0-0 start.

Minnesota was outscored 11-3 during a three-game skid it snapped with Sunday's 3-0 win at Columbus. Jason Pominville had a goal with an assist in his second game since being acquired from Buffalo and Niklas Backstrom stopped 24 shots for the Wild, who are sixth in the West and trying to keep pace with Northwest Division-leading Vancouver.

The Wild have not reached the postseason since 2007-08.

"You can't avoid it: Everyone is talking about (the playoffs),'' Backstrom said. "But for us it's still one day at a time, one game at a time.''

The Wild open an important three-game home stretch that includes visits from St. Louis and the Blue Jackets, both behind them in the West standings. They'll hope to build on their latest victory minus forward Dany Heatley, who will miss a third consecutive game with a shoulder injury.

Heatley, who has 11 goals and 10 assists, had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday and the Wild are hoping to have him back in time for the playoffs.

"We've got three home games coming up, and obviously some good competition, so we have to make sure we're sharp and ready to go," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.

Minnesota rookie Charlie Coyle has scored half of his six goals in the last five games.

Backstrom stopped all 28 shots in relief against the Blackhawks in January, but allowed four goals on 17 shots at Chicago last month.

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