The Dallas Stars return from their first road trip of the season with a 2-1-0 record and a share of the Pacific Division lead to face the league's only three-win team in the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the American Airlines Center at 7:30pm CST on FSSW.
Dallas dominated much of their game in Detroit Tuesday night, building a 2-0 lead on the strength of two Cody Eakin assisted Michael Ryder goals and carried a shut-out into the final three seconds of the game before rookie Damien Brunner ruined Kari Lehtonen's clean sheet.
Chicago enters fresh off a 3-2 win in their home opener over the St. Louis Blues, and 3-0 for the first time in 41 years.
"We've just got to remind ourselves every night that it's about us preparing ourselves to play and worrying about our own game and our own locker room." says Jonathan Toews of their hot start. "We've got to set that standard for how we're going to play every single night."
Chicago and Dallas split the season series at 2-2-0 last year with four points a piece.
After defeating the Red Wings in Detroit on Tuesday the team ran into technical problems with the chartered plane, and remained in Michigan through late Wednesday afternoon. The result was that Glen Gulutzan lost a day of practice and the players got back to their homes nearly 20 hours after originally scheduled.
The big story from Tuesday was that Cody Eakin was moved from the fourth line to the second, centering Ray Whitney and Michael Ryder while assisting on both goals. The added potency on offense was exactly what the Stars needed and we'll look for it to continue tonight.
Tom Wandell, who's role was usurped by Eakin, looked the part on an energy line with Ryan Garbutt and Reilly Smith. The Stars hope this look gives them four productive lines in the continued absence of center Jamie Benn amidst a protracted contract negotiation.
The only lineup question late Wednesday night is whether or not Aaron Rome (groin) will get into the Stars' lineup for the first time. Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon have performed above and beyond expectations for un-drafted rookies in a condensed season, but Rome appears ready to join the lineup. Will Gulutzan switch up his pairings on the heels of a win? Check back with us after morning skate for more details.
Expected Stars' lineup:
Injuries: Ray Whitney has a banged up foot but is expected to go. Aaron Rome (groin) is questionable. Derek Roy appeared to have suffered a shoulder injury in Tuesday's contest but the nature of the discomfort is unconfirmed and he's assumed available for this one tonight.
The Blackhawks enter tonight's game looking the part of one of the better, if not the best, team in the young NHL season. Joel Quenneville's squad is 3-0-0 after scoring an impressive trio of wins against the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, the reigning Pacific Division Champion Phoenix Coyotes and the reigning Central Division Champion St. Louis Blues, scoring 14 goals in the process.
After a disappointing playoff exist last season Chicago is focused mentally on what must be done and have returned nearly their entire roster to do it.
"There might be a little chip on our shoulder for this group in here," Patrick Kane told ESPN this week. "We had a good season last year - there were some ups and downs and I think with the group thinks we can do some better things. It's almost the same team and sometimes when that happens you come back a little more focused, a little more prepared."
Kane co-leads the team in points with five in just three games along side Marian Hossa who's scored four goals on the season already.
The Blackhawks have won their first three games to start a season for the time since the fall of 1972-1973.
They're not taking many penalties (10 in 3 games) and won't have to if they continue to possess the puck the majority of the time. On the flip side their power play has tallied a goal in each of their first three contests, so as it has been in the early going for Dallas, staying out of the box will be key once more.
Their expected lineup...
Unlike the Red Wings of two nights ago, the Blackhawks are whole and healthy. Carcillo (knee)