The Dallas Stars start an important three game road swing tonight in the Windy City as they meet the Chicago Blackhawks for the third of four meetings this season. The Stars have won the first two games in high scoring affairs by a total score of 9-7. Both teams are placing extra emphasis on this last week of play before the Olympic break: The Stars, trying to remain in the playoff race need to pull 4 or 5 points out of this three game trip; The Blackhawks are 1-2-1 in their last 4 and are looking for a little bit of momentum heading into the break. Their need for points (they have 81) is not exactly as pressing.
Chicago boasts the lowest GAA in the league at 2.24, and they score the fourth most goals per game in the league at 3.10, giving them a goal differential of +50 on the season. Dallas is -15.
The Stars will be without forward Steve Ott for this trip, who had an emergency appendectomy early Monday morning. Ott was named the games #1 star when last these teams met on December 29th with 2 goals and 1 assist. Mike Ribeiro has 3 points against the Hawks this year, and will make his return to the lineup tonight after missing 15 games with a throat contusion. He is expected to skate limited minutes (~10) and play on the 4th line, as well as spot special teams duty.
The Stars have lost 12 of their 13 on the road, and have scored only once in their last 120 minutes of hockey away from the AAC.
Follow the jump for more on both teams, and what do you do with the lines with Ott out?
Even with the return of Mike Ribeiro,the Jamie Benn at center experiment will continue. Ribeiro has said he will start with only 10 minutes or so of ice time. The struggling Stars power play will be glad to have him back, should Crawford deem his timing good enough, and it's an ideal place to use some of his limited minutes, at least from a physical standpoint. He's not at risk (not much anyway) on the power play of taking any big hits.
The Stars are 3 for their last 37 road power plays (8%).
Jamie Benn took 8 faceoffs and won 7 of them against Phoenix on Saturday, but Steve Ott took more, winning 8 of 11. That's yet another area where the Stars will miss Otter tonight, and Benn will likely be on his own there. The Blackhawks are the third best faceoff team in the league.
The lines, and I'm guessing here, are expected to look something like this:
Marty Turco will make his 4th consecutive start in goal. He has stopped 98 of the last 101 shots he's faced, shutting out Phoenix on Saturday in the Stars 4-0 win.
Since everyone around here is always looking for a trade partner for Marty Turco, I thought you'd be interested in the Blackhawk perspective from Second City Hockey:
While I'm on the subject, there's far too much smoke about the Hawks looking for a goalie to make me comfortable. I don't know how people could have watched, and I mean actually watch the game and not read the statsheet, and conclude the goaltending has been the problem. If the Hawks go off the rails in the playoffs, their recent defensive asshoolery and Doofus University on the power play would give me far more heartburn than the goalies.
Marty Turco? Finished. Giguere's gone to Toronto. Is there anyone left? Jaro Halak? Why would Montreal give him up when they've clearly tired of Carey Price? Cam Ward is hurt again. Even if the Hawks go and find another netminder, what's to be done with this Cristobal Huet? Stash him in the minors? Yeah, great, I'm sure people will be lining up in the summer to take him then.
First, I hope Marty isn't "finished." Second, they're right about that first part. The Chicago goaltenders have the best combined GAA in the league. It is borderline ludicrous that they're always rumored in goalie trade talk.
While a series of wins would be a confidence boost by itself, the Blackhawks are also looking for more consistency on offense as well. In their last four games, the Hawks have been held to two goals or fewer and have gone just 1-2-1 in that span.