Monday could have gone better for the Dallas Stars, but it also could have gone much, much worse.
The Phoenix Coyotes jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the New York Rangers before the Stars could drop the puck, and also lead 3-2 in the third period, but managed just a single point in an overtime loss. That point keeps them ahead of the Stars, who just managed to outlast the Winnipeg Jets at home.
Even more impactful, potentially, Phoenix lost Mike Smith to an apparent leg/lower body injury.
The plot thickens, and the Stars hope it stays that way until the end, lest they slip back. The schedule starts to get pretty hairy here moving forward, as exemplified by the world champion Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
With the benefit of last change and their home crowd the Stars could not generate much of anything at even strength last night, using the power play to great effect, and Kari Lehtonen to even more. The big Finn didn't quite steal those two points last night, but it wasn't far off from that.
Tim Thomas or Kari Lehtonen tonight. Only time will tell. They do have two days off (a luxury in these times, to be sure) after this one before another back-to-back set with Nashville and St. Louis Friday and Saturday, so Ruff will have to be careful about how he manages these guys.
Dallas needs to find a point or two out of Chicago and St. Louis' buildings in these cruel, cruel back-to-back nights, lest the Coyotes run away.
The Blackhawks' only two regulation losses over the last two weeks have been to the Nashville Predators. Maybe the Stars can imitate 120 minutes of film and beat them like Barry Trotz did.
"We had a good start and we had a couple of great looks at the net," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told media. "We missed the net, missed the opportunities there, and they scored first. What happened after was exactly what happened [March 14]. They get the lead and they go into a check-fest and they check well."
Well, maybe not.
The Stars will, instead, likely try to rush up and down the ice with the defending world champs, and that's a tall order on the road on the second night of a back-to-back.
Overreacion in Chicago-land abounds these days. From "Does Patrick Kane's injury end a chance to repeat?" to gushing about the NHL debut of Teuvo Teravainen tonight. Kane may be back before the playoffs. Bryan Bickell has also been missing lately, but he could return tonight.
A lineup they've used recently...
But all eyes will be on Teravainen in Chicago, unconcerned with their playoff spot or Dallas' desperate plight.
"I don't want to put ... I don't want to say pressure or expectations on him," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told media. I just think he could be a special player in our league. Offensively, he has a great set of skills as far as puck possession and recognition of plays."
We could enumerate the seemingly endless array of impressive stats and figures adorning a high-end team like Chicago, but you've heard it before. The questions is how Dallas can compete offensively on the road when the Benn line gets matched and eliminated by opposing coaching- Tonight more than ever. Can Dallas' group of (as of late) unproductive lower lines show up when it matters the most?
Puck drop is at 7:00pm on Fox Sports Southwest proper.