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Blackhawks finish preseason on a high note

Oct 1, 2006 - 2:54 AM ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- While many might think the preseason is meaningless, the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks hope the opposite is true.

Michal Handzus had a goal and an assist and Martin Lapointe set up two tallies to lift the surprising Blackhawks to a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild in the final preseason game for both clubs.

Chicago, which has posted a losing record in eight of the last nine seasons, finished 7-1 this preseason.

Bryan Smolinski, Radim Vrbata and Rene Bourque also scored for Chicago, which went 1-for-7 on the power play. Its improvement with the man advantage was a paramount reason for Chicago's strong preseason, as it went 15-for-67 (22.4 percent) with the extra skater.

Marian Gaborik scored the lone goal for Minnesota, which went 0-for-5 on the power play.

Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves for Chicago as he tries to bounce back from a sub-par season. Khabibulin went 17-26-6 with a 3.35 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in 2005-06.

Manny Fernandez played the first two periods for the Wild, making 18 saves, while Niklas Backstrom stopped three shots in the third session.

The Blackhawks begin the regular season Wednesday, when they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Minnesota also plays its season opener Wednesday as it hosts the Colorado Avalanche.

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