The surging Chicago Blackhawks are making their case for a postseason berth and an opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup.
The Minnesota Wild may need another strong goaltending performance to keep pace in the fluctuating Western Conference standings.
Visiting Chicago looks to win back-to-back season series against Minnesota for the first time when the teams face off Monday night.
The Blackhawks (33-23-6) have won four straight after Sunday’s 4-3 shootout victory against Phoenix to jump into a tie with Dallas and the Wild for sixth in the West.
“We’re looking at the standings, but you can’t pay too much attention to it,” Crawford said.
Captain Jonathan Toews(notes), who has 18 points in 12 games in February, scored twice in regulation and added the lone shootout goal. Marian Hossa(notes) also scored, giving him a goal in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 15-18.
“We’ve come out with great starts the last couple of games,” Toews said. “It’s right there in front of us. We’ve got to carry that effort right through to the third.”
After winning three of four against Minnesota in 2009-10, the Blackhawks have taken two of three meetings this season. A win would give Chicago its first back-to-back victories in a season series against Minnesota since the Wild entered the NHL prior to the 2000-01 season.
Minnesota’s play in net may prevent that from happening.
Jose Theodore(notes) made 46 saves Friday in a 3-2 overtime victory against Anaheim for his third win in four starts. Regular starter Niklas Backstrom(notes) got the night off and is 5-3-1 with a 1.43 goals-against average in February, giving up one goal or less in six of those nine starts.
“My job is to make sure that when I get in there, I’m not happy with being average. I’ve got to be good,” Theodore said. “Niklas Backstrom is playing some great hockey for us, and when he gets the day off, I have to keep going.”
Theodore suffered a tough loss Feb. 16, giving up two goals with 34 saves in a 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks. Backstrom had lost his last three decisions against Chicago - including a 3-1 defeat Oct. 30 - before winning 4-2 on Jan. 25.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard(notes) scored in overtime Friday and also netted a goal in the January meeting with Chicago. He has two goals and two assists over his last four for Minnesota (33-23-6), which played without captain Mikko Koivu(notes) (broken finger) and Kyle Brodziak(notes) (sick).
“It’s a huge win for us,” Bouchard said. “We’re missing a lot of key guys in the lineup, but I think we are playing our best hockey right now. Guys are stepping up their game, and that’s what we need from everybody.”
Martin Havlat(notes) had his four-game point streak snapped against the Ducks. Havlat, who spent three seasons with the Blackhawks from 2006-09, has a goal and three assists in seven meetings since signing with the Wild prior to last season.
Minnesota is 6-1-1 in its last eight at home, while Chicago is 3-0-2 in its last five road games.