Dallas Looking For Smoother Sailing This Time Around in Chicago

Get ready for more of this guy around the net.

Remember December 8th? The Dallas Stars had just lost a frustrating game to the Blue Jackets when Karlis Skrastins was whistled for a penalty in the final minutes of play for breathing oxygen and Rick Nash scored on the ensuing PP. They were incensed.

Then Wednesday morning in Chicago Kari Lehtonen goes through the entire morning skate only to discover afterward that his back was too tight to go that night, and Raycroft made the surprise start. Bachman was called up immediately. The media joked with Adam Burish. Few knew what kind of..."imbroglio" was coming that night.

Bickell scores a goal big Kari might have stopped, Toews scores a goal by virtue of a horrendous non-call on goaltender interference, and the rout was on, even though the Stars made it close late in the game. Then of course there was the deliberate, purposeful throwing of the stick that went uncalled at the end of the game, sending Marc Crawford into the rare fit of rage while cameras were pointed at him.

The Hawks dominated play and the injustices and circumstances rankled the team too much. They'd like this time to be a little different.

For one, there likely (knock on wood) won't be any surprise changes in goal before the game. Next, the disparity in power plays probably won't be six to one in favor of Chicago, and one would imagine that Seabrook will keep a good tight hold of his stick tonight. Also the "0-for-XX" on the road PP that was such an issue in early December has disappeared.

The Stars have enough to worry about without all of those extraneous shenanigans. For instance, the Hawks are healthy now and have won four of five of their last home games entering play tonight.

Continued after the jump...

The Stars:

Word from Chicago is that Robidas didn't practice but is fine, and James Neal was a little banged up after St. Louis but should also be ready to go tonight.

Kari Lehtonen will make his fourth straight start in net.

The Stars have won their last five road games, something that was unheard of last year (and the year before, come to think of it). They've allowed only 2.00 goals per game in that stretch and keeping the score low against the Hawks will be a huge key to pulling points out of this one.

The win over St. Louis was aided in great part by winning 60% of their draws. The losses that preceded it to VAN and DET saw significantly worse faceoff percentages. The last time the Stars went to Chicago they won only 40% of faceoffs. Keep an eye on the dot tonight. It goes a long way toward deciding things for Dallas lately.

Sometime before this game is over it's possible that Adam Burish will learn the outcome of his bet with Steve Ott, pending the result of the Canada/Russia WJC final. Mike Heika explains...

The two have a bet that if the other person's team wins, the losing player has to wear the colors of the other country in a practice. Canada will play Russia for the gold medal, and if Canada wins, Ott says he will produce a Team Canada jersey with ``Ott'' on the back for Burish to wear. They also have a monetary wager, and Ott said he got a little too cocky on that one. During the game, he boasted that the Canadians would shut out the Americans, and Burish said there was no way that would happen. Ott then said that if Canada didn't get a shutout, he would cut the bet in half.

If anyone from the Stars is listening...get pictures. (I'm sure Canada will win)

The Blackhawks:

Last time these teams met the Hawks were without Hossa and Kane. They were supposed to be without Jonathan Toews tonight but the young star made a heroic early return from a shoulder injury. Chicago is healthy and on their way back up the standings. They've won four of their last five at home and got a great win over the Kings on Monday night at Staples Center.

Still, there are those that wonder what's happening with Chicago lately and they're getting the wrong kind of attention for it...

From ESPN...

It's been hard not to think of the Detroit Red Wings when watching the Blackhawks bob up and down in the choppy seas that are the Western Conference. Injuries to key personnel, such as Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Toews, have made integrating all the new parts of the lineup that much more difficult. Like the Wings last season, you have to wonder how much energy will be expended by the defending Cup champs just to return to the postseason.

Even with the big win against Los Angeles, a game in which they spotted the Kings the first goal, the Blackhawks are still outside the playoff bubble. Shocking to consider they might not even qualify for the postseason the year after bringing home their first Stanley Cup since 1961.

Alright, they went on to say that OF COURSE the Hawks would make the playoffs, but the fact that the season is half done and they are where they are...it's worthy of conversation.

With the way they dominated possession, chances and faceoffs last time, no one need convince the Stars that the Hawks are still a very, very good team. This will be a stout test for Dallas tonight to see if they can keep that road streak going. As always, their ability to survive the first 20 minutes will probably decide how this one ends up.

Check out Second City Hockey for more Blackhawk discussion.

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