The Dallas Stars are 9-4-2 over their last 15 games- Something to be thankful for on this holiday weekend, but tonight they face off against division leader Chicago, who serves as a reminder that .667 hockey over the last month still has them dead last in the Central.
The Stars are coming off an exciting 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night that saw five different Dallas players notch goals in an explosive third period, none of which came from the Stars' top line. Top-end skill was the name of the game when last the Blackhawks visited, however, as Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews all found the pack of the net in a 5-2 win at the AAC on November 9th.
"Teams are going to focus on our top line," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said after the win. "They're going to focus on Tyler and Benner and Val or whoever is over there on the right hand side. They're going to see the best defense pair most nights. Other teams are going to do their best to make sure they keep them off the board and that's when the other lines have to step up."
Chicago is five games into a seven game road swing (their annual circus trip) and riding a four game win streak over every Western Conference Canadian team. The Blackhawks out-scored Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg 16-7 in that stretch.
The pucks drops at 7:00pm tonight on NHL Network out of town and Fox Sports Southwest with Ralph and Razor locally.
Matching high-end skill with high-end skill might be tougher than usual against Chicago, however, if Tyler Seguin cannot go. Seguin missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with a "muscle" issue, and is said to probably for this tonight, but not a sure thing.
"We just decided to give him another day. He's not quite where we need him," Ruff said on Thanksgiving. "He should be OK for tomorrow, but not definitely."
The Stars practiced Dustin Jeffrey in Seguin's spot Thursday, so it doesn't appear as though they're making much in the way of contingency plans. Lines should be these again:
When last they met Ruff chose to play the Eakin line against Toews, Sharp and Hossa- At least at first. Benn and Seguin were able to fight Perry and Getlzaf to a stalemate Tuesday while the depth lines battled it out. If that's the strategy again can Eakin and company stop Kane's unit?
Side note: Aaron Rom is now injured after some kind of incident in practice.
From Stars PR: "The Stars kicked off their first three-game homestand of the 2013-14 season with a 6-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night. Dallas scored five goals in the third period of Tuesday's contest, the most the team has scored in a single frame since tallying six goals, also in the third period, on Feb. 6, 2009 vs. the New York Rangers. Forward CODY EAKIN recorded two points (1-1=2) in the contest for his third multi-point outing of the season, all of which have come at American Airlines Center. EAKIN leads the Stars with nine points (3-6-9) on home ice this season."
Chicago is no mystery entering this one, still leading in many meaningful and advanced statistical categories- Still first overall in the league in points, trading that daily with St. Louis and Anaheim (who the Stars have already faced this week...)
They're first in the league with 3.54 goals per game on offense, but just 19th in defense seeing opponents score 2.73 per game against them. Their power play is middle-of-the-pack at 20.2%, but Dallas has allowed power play goals against in five straight games and six of their last seven overall. Putting Chicago on the kill might be a way to silence the red-clad masses at the AAC as the Hawks own the league's second worst power play at 74%.
Watch out for Patrick Kane, who has an incredible eight goals and nine assists in Chicago's last 12 games.
Corey Crawford, who like Kari Lehtonen got a night off before Thanksgiving, should start in net. From the Chicago Tribune:
Crawford has won the confidence of coach Joel Quenneville, who turned to the netminder for 15 consecutive games before giving him Wednesday night during the Hawks' 3-2 victory over the Flames. Antti Raanta was solid in a backup role in Calgary but Crawford will continue to get the bulk of the workload.
"If you look back (before) last year, the question was, 'Can (Crawford) win in the playoffs?'" Quenneville said. "He answered (that). It seems like he's improving handling the puck and his composure during games has been very consistent. Each and every year he has taken his game to the next level and answered a lot of questions based on how he has played." [Chicago Tribune]
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