The Chicago Blackhawks (44-26-10, 98 points) are currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoff race, and on Thursday night they get a chance to avenge Sunday's 5-4 shootout loss in their rematch with the Minnesota Wild (34-35-11, 79 points). The Hawks are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games and sit only two points behind the Nashville Predators for the No. 5 seed, so they still have plenty of incentive to continue their winning ways.
Defenseman Duncan Keith is expected to return to the lineup after serving his five-game suspension for striking Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks in the head with his elbow back on March 21, but captain Jonathan Toews (concussion) had his return pushed another day and has been ruled out. Even so, Blackhawks fans are getting excited about Toews' eventual return to the lineup, but Sam Fels of Second City Hockey thinks the scoring talent needs to be spread out a bit, rather than consolidated:
There's been some talk of putting Kane, Hossa, and Toews together, forcing one of Hossa or Kane to flip to the left side -- more likely Kane as he can still pass from off his forehand from there while not forcing Hossa to not be squared up to shoot from the right. Again, this doesn't totally matter, as the Hawks like to cycle and move in the offensive zone and everybody ends up everywhere if they're on. But I'm not down with this. I've never liked the idea of loading up one line unless it's the 3rd and you need a goal. It makes the Hawks too easy to counter, even if you think Sharpie and the Swedes can maintain what we've seen the past couple weeks for a good while longer. I'm not so convinced, as much as I've loved it.
GAME TIME: Thursday, April 5, 7:00 p.m. CT
LOCATION: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago for more information, and for in-depth analysis on the Chicago Blackhawks be sure to visit Second City Hockey. Wild news and notes are available at Hockey Wilderness. Visit SB Nation NHL for more news and notes around the league.