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Blackhawks-Wild Preview

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp (10) and Minnesota Wild's Dany Heatley, second from left, battle for the puck during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Blackhawks won 2-1. (AP P Photo:

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp (10) and Minnesota Wild's Dany Heatley, second from left, battle for the puck during the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Blackhawks won 2-1. (AP P

It wasn't too long ago that a celebration ensued after Chicago simply clinched a playoff berth. Three Stanley Cup titles in six years changes things, though.

The Minnesota Wild also once viewed a postseason trip as a success, but after three straight appearances that all ended with losses to the Blackhawks, expectations have increased.

Minnesota has earned a measure of revenge by taking the first four meetings of the season, and it can get closer to securing a playoff spot by sweeping the series for the first time in nine years Tuesday night.

The Blackhawks (44-25-7) are trying to get hot heading into April, something that has become customary. They've gone 8-9-3 in their last 20 but have won the first two on a four-game road trip that ends Friday against Winnipeg.

Chicago secured its eighth straight trip to the postseason with Sunday's 3-2 win over Vancouver. Andrew Ladd scored twice in Saturday's 4-1 win over Calgary and had a goal against Vancouver, helping the Blackhawks to the verge of winning three straight for the first time since Feb. 2-6.

''We wanted to build on (Saturday's) win and just keep getting points,'' said Ladd, who won the Cup with Chicago in 2009-10 and scored his sixth goal in 13 games since being reacquired at the trade deadline. ''It's still a dogfight in the standings and for position, and these are the games you need to have."

The Blackhawks are four points behind Dallas and St. Louis for the Central Division and Western Conference leads. If they're able to move up the ladder, it could set up another playoff matchup with the surging Wild (37-28-11).

Minnesota has won five in a row after Saturday's crucial 4-0 victory over Colorado that provided distance from the Avalanche in what has become a two-team race for the West's final playoff spot. The Wild have gone 14-6-1 since replacing Mike Yeo with interim coach John Torchetti, a former Blackhawks assistant.

Zach Parise was named the league's first star of the week after recording a hat trick in Thursday's win over the Flames and scoring twice against Colorado.

"You feel confident, but we have to continue to play the way we have, same mindset that we've had," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "It's still tight, you still want to build your game for the playoffs and you want to be playing the right way when playoffs come."

They haven't been able to get past Chicago come playoff time, losing in five games in 2013 and six the following year before being swept in the second round last season.

Minnesota has won six straight regular-season meetings, though, including a 3-2 shootout victory in the last matchup March 20. It hasn't swept the season series since 2006-07.

Devan Dubnyk has a 1.96 goals-against average while winning all four matchups this season and a 1.36 GAA during the Wild's winning streak. He's helped them kill off 24 of their last 25 penalties, while Chicago has gone 0 for 23 on the power play over its last eight.

Scott Darling likely will be in net for the Blackhawks and has posted a 2.23 GAA while starting six straight. Corey Crawford is still nursing an upper-body injury and hasn't been with the club on the road trip.

Center Artem Anisimov's status is unclear after he sat out against Vancouver with a lower-body injury.

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