Dallas Stars (30-26-4, 64 pts) @ Chicago Blackhawks (33-21-7, 73 pts)
7:30 PM CT, February 23, 2012
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Build build build. That's the name of the game for Dallas today. Sitting two points out of a playoff spot and a chance jump to eighth today, they need to build on what they accomplished in their 3-0 whipping of the Montreal Canadiens. The Stars had one of their more impressive victories of the season and definitely one of the best games they have played in the past couple of months. There was a tenacity to the squad that had been missing.
Dallas got contributions throughtout the lineup in the game against the Habs. The fourth line was especially impressive as they hounded the Canadiens in the offensive boards. Ryan Garbutt was especially good as he led the team in shots and hits despite playing just 8:37. That line will once again come into play (particularly with Jamie Benn injured) as the Chicago Blackhawks are one of the deeper teams in the league. The energy and effort has to be there for the team tonight if they hope to win.
The game tonight is the first half of another deadly back-to-back for the Stars. They conclude it at home tomorrow against the Minnesota Wild. The game tonight is worrisome because despite the rests between games, this team might have some fatigue due to travel. For the past six games (10 days), the Stars have alternated playing on the home and road. They started at home, went north, came back home, went west, came home again, then traveled up to Canada and now find themselves in Chicago. There's been one day of rest in between each of these games but the constant late night games and early morning flights can't be good for their energy.
Sheldon Souray should return to the lineup tonight after missing the past seven games with a foot injury. I'm guessing that either Adam Pardy or Mark Fistric sits tonight. As a result of some injuries to the forwards, Matt Fraser was called up from the Texas Stars. He played in a game with the big club earlier this season but didn't do much.
Jamie Benn (leg laceration), Jake Dowell (broken finger) and Brenden Morrow (neck/shoulder/back) are out for this game. Morrow should return around the beginning of March and Benn is day-to-day with that deep cut in his leg. Dowell will be out for abuot two weeks.
Richard Bachman gets a start tonight, his first since February 2 against the Sharks. The 21 days between starts will be the longest for him this year (and probably the longest in his AHL and NHL career) so it will be interesting to see how rusty he is. He was let down by his defense in the last game he played, a 5-2 loss to the Sharks, so he'll be looking to bounce back. There's a lot of pressure on him tonight though so hopefully he steps up.
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 14-14-2 on the road.
- A Dallas Stars win coupled with a Phoenix Coyotes win over the Calgary Flames will put the Stars into the eighth spot in the West.
- This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the very first two games of the season. Dallas split the two games, winning 2-1 at home and losing 5-2 on the road.
- Dallas has struggled to get calls from the referees lately. They have received only one PP in three of the past four games.
- Mike Ribeiro has gotten at least one point in five of the last six games.
more after the jump
I'm sure the Stars wish they could have played the Blackhawks two weeks ago instead of now. Chicago comes into this game on a four game win streak after bumbling through the end of January and the beginning of February with nine straight losses. However, eight of those losses were on the road. The Blackhawks are a totally different entity on home ice.
The biggest reason for the winning streak is the play of Corey Crawford. Crawford has started and won the past four games. He's allowed only one goal in each of the past three games and has stopped 115 of the past 120 shots.
Chicago will be without a huge piece of their team tonight in captain Jonathan Toews. Toews is dealing with a suspected concussion and might miss a good amount of time. Toews leads the team in goals (29), is second in points (57) and and third on the team in assists (28).
The Hawks still have plenty of weapons though so the defense needs to key in on Patrick Kane, Marion Hossa and Patrick Sharp tonight. They also get a key defenseman back in this game as Niklas Hjalmarsson returns after missing seven games from a concussion.
Aside from Toews, Chicago will also be without forward Dan Carcillo (knee) and defenseman Steve Montador (upper body).
Notes and thoughts:
- The Hawks are 21-6-4 at home this year, third best in the NHL (behind the Red Wings and Blues). They have won seven of the last eight games at home.
- Chicago has scored 104 goals at home this season, second most in the NHL and a huge reason why they rank 4th in the league goals per game. Only Detroit has scored more (105).
- Chicago is in a Stars-like PP funk. They haven't scored a PP goal since Jan. 24 and have gone 0 of 30 since then.
- Chicago has allowed 21 goals on the PK this season, good for fourth worst in the league. Their home PK percentage (77.4%) is third worst in the NHL. If Dallas can get some PP chances, it could prove huge in this game.
- Keep an eye on the second period tonight. Chicago has scored 71 goals in that frame (3rd in the NHL) but has also allowed a league worst 74 goals. The fireworks could really go off then.