The Wild Beat
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CHICAGO — The Wild continues to get healthier, with the team potentially getting three regulars back this weekend in a home-and-home against the Blackhawks.

Center Joel Eriksson Ek will return Friday at United Center after missing five games with injury and COVID-19. Fellow center Ryan Hartman will also be in the lineup after being under the weather and missing practice on Thursday. The plan is for captain Jared Spurgeon (lower-body injury) to play Saturday when the series shifts to Xcel Energy Center, and goalie Cam Talbot (lower-body injury) could also be in action that night.

"We'll see how he comes through today, and there's a possibility of him backing up and/or playing tomorrow," coach Dean Evason said. "But we'll evaluate here after tonight."

Eriksson Ek hasn't played since Dec.20 when he suffered an upper-body injury in Dallas after getting tied up with the Stars' Jani Hakanpaa and crashing into the boards. He was supposed to suit up last Friday vs. the Ducks but tested positive the previous day and went on the COVID list.

"He's a big part of our hockey club clearly," Evason said. "Does so many things real well and plays in all situations. To have him back is exciting for the entire group."

This is the Wild's first game since a 4-3 shootout loss on Monday at Colorado, and it'll rekindle a rivalry with Chicago that's been on ice since Feb.4, 2020.

"They're a very scary team offensively that we have to be very aware of," Evason said.

Projected lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Kevin Fiala-Frederick Gaudreau-Matt Boldy

Connor Dewar-Nico Sturm-Brandon Duhaime

Jordie Benn-Matt Dumba

Alex Goligoski-Dmitry Kulikov

Jon Merrill-Calen Addison

Kaapo Kahkonen

Key numbers:

4: Wins for the Wild in the first half of six back-to-backs so far this season.

7-5-2: Performance by the Wild in its past 14 road games.

10: Points for Mats Zuccarello during a season-long six-game point streak.

13-7-2: Record for the Wild over its last 22 games vs. Chicago.

21: Combined points for Zuccarello and linemate Kirill Kaprizov since Dec.20.

About the Blackhawks:

Chicago is 4-0-1 over its last five games after a shootout loss to Seattle on Monday. Before then, during a four-game win streak, the Blackhawks outscored their opponents 12-5. Winger Patrick Kane is the team's leading scorer with 35 points, three ahead of winger Alex DeBrincat whose 23 goals are tops on Chicago. Kane is on an eight-game point streak that's tied for the longest active run in the NHL. Winger Dominik Kubalik has a goal in three consecutive games.