Chicago Blackhawks (38-25-8, 84 pts) @ Dallas Stars (39-27-5, 83 pts)
8:30 PM ET, March 16, 2012
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
There's been tougher matchups and more grueling games, but tonight is the true indicator of what this Stars team is made of. Tonight is the bounce back game, the game where the Stars need to show that they are truly resilient to make the playoffs. Dallas was blown of the water in the 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The Stars just looked tired on the second night of a back-to-back and couldn't keep up with a Jets team that is on steroids on home ice.
The last time Dallas lost a game was to the Pittsuburgh Penguins in a shootout. Dallas rebounded to win six games in a row after that one. This bounceback game is infinitely tougher though because the playoff race is as close as ever. The Stars only hold a tenuous two point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes for the division lead and are only three points away from dropping out of the playoff picture. Dallas sits one point behind the Blackhawks and currently hold a tiebreaker over them. Each team has 33 regulation+overtime wins and Dallas currently holds the season series. To say tonight's game has massive consequences would be, well, a massive understatement.
The game tonight is the start of a four game homestand for the Stars in which they'll play the Blackhawks, Coyotes, Canucks and Flames. The Stars have a huge opportunity to put ground between them and the other teams fighting for a playoff spot and must take advantage of it. They need to come out energetic tonight and take it to a Chicago team that is missing Jonathan Toews. Take advantage of their shaky defense and for the love of God please don't take too many penalties.
Dallas also needs to be wary of the speed of Chicago. The Stars were burned by how quickly the Jets skated and moved the puck in the last game and guys like Patrick Kane and Marion Hossa can do the same thing. Dallas has done a good job holding them quiet so far this season (Kane has two assists and Hossa has one goal and one assist) and need to do so again tonight.
Kari Lehtonen returns into net tonight. He started the first game between these two teams, a 2-1 win for the Stars. Chicago faced Andrew Raycroft and Richard Bachman in the subsequent games so the Hawks haven't seen Lehtonen since the first game of the year. Kari stopped 37 of 38 shots and was the first star of the game.
Dallas will be without the services of Sheldon Souray (lower body) and Radek Dvorak (ankle) again. Philip Larsen left the last game with a against the Jets with what looked like a knee injury and he's questionable for tonight. If he can't go, it looks like Jordie Benn would get some ice time.
Notes and thoughts:
- Dallas is 20-12-3 at home this season.
- The penalty kill finally had a hiccup in the game against the Jets, allowing a power play goal for the first time in nine games. Dallas is 26 of 27 on the PK in that stretch.
- Michael Ryder still sits one goal away from his career high. Jamie Benn is still one point away from setting a new career high.
- Dallas really really needs to win this one to keep ahead of the Blackhawks in case a tiebreaker situation comes up. As stated before, both teams have 33 regulation and overtime wins as of today and Dallas holds the season series right now at 2-1. If nothing else, Dallas needs to keep the head to head series over them.
- Lehtonen has won five straight games and is coming off back-to-back shutouts. He's allowed only six goals in those five games and has stopped 146 of 152 shots.
- The one thing that Dallas has done to this Blackhawks team is hit them. The Stars have outhit the Hawks 110-51 in the three games this year. Getting physical is a good way to deal with skaters like Kane and Hossa. Just stay in front of them.
more after the jump
The Hawks have been playing pretty well recently and scored a huge win in their last game by beating the NHL leading St. Louis Blues in a shootout (4-3). The Hawks came back from a 3-1 deficit after the first intermission to stun the Blues. That kind of win is one that could propel a team through the rest of the season if Chicago can build off of it (though hopefully that doesn't happen tonight). The Hawks have been playing for the past month (11 games) without captain Jonathan Toews due to a concussion. Among the games that he missed was one against the Stars in Chicago, one that the Hawks would go on to lose 3-1.
Chicago has been relying on offense to bail them out of games lately. The Blackhawks have allowed three or more goals in four straight games but have managed to win two of them due to their offense. Those win came against the Blues and the New York Rangers, the two teams with the most points in the league so the Hawks are not short on confidence.
Chicago will be without the aforementioned Toews (concussion) as well as defensemen Steve Montador (concussion) and Sami Lepsito (leg) and forward Dan Carcillo (torn ACL). Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is questionable with an upper body (possibly a rib) injury that he suffered against the Blues.
Corey Crawford had his first action in five games in that win against the Blues. He had been benched for a while but came up big in relief of Ray Emery, saving Chicago after Emery had given up three first period goals. Crawford has started all three games against the Stars this season, going 1-2-0 with a 2.39 GAA and a .911 save percentage. He allowed three goals in the last game between these two.
Notes and thoughts:
- Chicago is 14-18-3 on the road this season. They've lost three of the last five road games by a combined score of 14-6. In their two wins, the defense showed up and only allowed two goals combined.
- Chiacgo plays a disciplined game and have gone on the penalty kill only seven times in the last four games. They are 6 of 7 in that stretch on the kill.
- Patrick Kane, Marion Hossa and Patrick Sharp are all riding three game point streaks. Hossa has five assists, Sharp three assists and a goal while Kane has two goals and two assists.
- If Dallas can draw some penalties, the Chicago PK can be taken advantage of. The Hawks rank 23rd in the league in road penalty kill percentage. The only problem is that they don't take many problems, seventh least in the league on the road.
- Oct. 7 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 2 - Chicago 1
- Oct. 8 @ United Center: Dallas 2 - Chicago 5
- Feb. 23 @ United Center: Dallas 3 - Chicago 1
|Goals per game||2.3||2.3|
|Shots per game||26.3||32|
|Hits per game||36.7||17|
|PIM per game||12.3||9.7|
|Power Play||1 of 7 (14%)||1 of 12 (8%)|
|Penalty Kill||11 of 12 (92%)||6 of 7 (86%)|