Emery stymies Wild to improve to 15-1-0

It's getting tough to ignore Ray Emery's numbers, and apparently coach Joel Quenneville isn't.

Emery continued to make a strong case to be the Blackhawks' starter in Game 1 of the playoffs when he turned aside all 20 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.

It was Emery's third shutout in the last five games, during which has allowed all of 5 goals.

Emery now is 15-1-0 for the season with a 1.90 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.

It was interesting that Quenneville came back with Emery on Tuesday, but the gut feeling by the coach was right on.

“It gives him a little bit more based on how he's been playing,” Quenneville told Blackhawks TV following the morning skate. “It gives him a chance to get some consecutive games as well and we'll see how he is.”

Some will call it an ongoing audition for Emery for the playoffs. Others insist Corey Crawford still is the Hawks' No. 1 goalie.

“I think we're both trying to do our best whenever we get the opportunity to play,” Emery told reporters. “You don't control when you start, but you want to be ready.”

Crawford, who is 15-4-4 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, is the likely starter on Friday against Detroit at the United Center.

“We're going to get him in here this week,” Quenneville said. “Get him a couple practices here this week as well. We've got (nine) games left so both guys will be playing. I'm comfortable with both guys. It's a good situation. We'll see how it goes.”

Marian Hossa scored the game's only goal at 15:14 of the second period when he pounced on a bad clearing try by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner and whipped a slap shot past goalie Niklas Backstrom.

“It's a play I wish I could have back,” Stoner said.

“I saw he was going to pass probably in the middle and I tried to wait,” Hossa said. “He passed it really hard and I had to do a really good job to stop the puck and I tried to basically take a slapper.”

Emery held the fort from there with possibly his best save coming with 3:10 to play when he robbed Mike Rupp in tight.

“I thought he was solid,” Quenneville told reporters. “He was finding pucks and I thought our defensemen in front of him played very well. Ray's been doing a great job for us.”

Hossa said the team is equally confident in both goalies.

“Those two guys have been unreal for us this year,” Hossa said. “It doesn't matter who is in net for us. They've both played so strong for us. We only can be happy with both our goaltenders.”

Thanks largely to the play of Crawford and Emery, the Hawks are 30-5-4 and need just 3 more points to clinch the Central Division title.

Patrick Sharp returned to the lineup after missing 14 games with a sprained left shoulder and played a shade under 18 minutes with 5 shots on goal and was 6-3 on faceoffs.

“It's always tough when you sit out for that long,” Sharp told Blackhawks TV. “Those first couple shifts seem faster than they normally are.”

Sharp crashed into the boards late in the game and appeared to be in some pain, but Quenneville thought the winger would be fine.

Ray Emery deflects a shot by Minnesota Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard, right, as the Hawks’ Duncan Keith (2) and Niklas Hjalmarsson of Sweden watch in the third period. Associated Press
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