Tonight marks the final meeting of the season between the Stars and Blackhawks, and possibly the final game against them for Mike Modano. The Stars have been surprisingly good against Chicago this year, going 2-0-1 against them. Their first meeting at American Airlines Center saw the Stars jump out to a lead (with help from Mike Modano) and hung on late as the Hawks attempted a rally. Dallas won 5-4.
With a win tonight, the Hawks could possibly finish the night in a tie for the #1 seed in the Western Conference. San Jose takes on Calgary and might have a thing or two to say about that. The Stars fan in me wants to see the Sharks face the Kings in the first round, a #2 vs #7 matchup, but hopes that it doesn't come at the expense of an entertaining game tonight.
With Chicago surging into the playoffs, fighting for seeding, and the Stars trying out minor-leaguers (Matt Climie in goal tonight), it's easy to forget that both teams are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
The Blackhawks have claimed their first division title since they were in the Norris Division with the Stars. You know, back when the divisions made more sense.
Follow the jump for a look at the Hawks from Second City Hockey and more on Matt Climie...
Word from the morning skate is that Brenden Morrow is out with a foot contusion.
Matt Climie will get the start tonight, and somehow try to use the daunting task of facing Chicago into a competent audition for a backup role with the big club next year. I feel for him in this spot. Let's hope the recent penalty troubles do not continue and Climie can at least get a decent shot at this thing tonight.
He started three games last year for the Stars, earning a 2-1-0 record with a 2.92 GAA. He's played 42 games for the Texas Stars this year, going 21-16-3 with a .921 save percentage.
Philip Larsen, recalled from Frolunda, will not play tonight, but likely on Thursday.
Meanwhile another Dallas Stars doing a bit of auditioning for next year is Brian Sutherby. Sure, he's already got a contract for next season, but he spent much of this season up in the press box, even when his nagging injuries didn't warrant it. Krys Barch and Brunnstrom got more time ahead of him, but he's been making the most his time recently, getting noticed nightly while only playing 10 minutes or less.
Dallas Stars.com has a quote from Marc Crawford that's a little counter-intuitive to what we've heard about Crow and Sutherby all year:
"I just like the way he competes," Stars coach Marc Crawford said of Sutherby. "He paid the price and it’s nice that Steve was able to finish it off. It earns everybody’s respect. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Brian and how he plays and I believe players ultimately try to earn respect from other players - opponents and definitely your own teammates, and there were 40 players in the game that earned a lot more respect for Brian."
All of that is happening in these final games, yes, but tonight and Thursday are really about Mike Modano (and Marty Turco) for me.
Visit Second City Hockey for all things Blackhawks, like these notes from their most recent of 49 wins. (49!)
As we've been stating repeatedly, the top line is developing into one hellacious beast. Toews, Sharp, and Hossa had numerous stretches of prolonged pressure, and they once again sprung a line member for a breakaway (Sharp), which is getting to be a nightly occurance. What it lacks in brute physicality, it makes up for in hockey IQ and strength on the puck.
Antti Niemi continues to stake his claim on the #1/playoff goalie position, now only allowing 2 goals in his last 185 minutes of ice time. His confidence is growing, and more importantly, it seems that his teammates confindence IN him is growing as well.
The goaltending confidence pendulum continues to swing to and fro up there.
If the Stars could somehow manage to get to Niemi tonight, it will be
amusing interesting to watch it swing back the other way tomorrow morning.