Reports of the Chicago Blackhawks' demise were greatly exaggerated.
At 8-7-1 many were willing to write-off the defending champions as simply having been too deconstructed due to the salary cap problems that arrive after so much sustained winning.
So much so that after that mild start they've gone on a twenty-game tear to the tune of a .725 points percentage (13-4-3) over the course of the better part of two months now, and while Patrick Kane gets all the NHL Network air-time it's been their defense and goaltending that has turned things around for them.
Recently they shutout the Jets and Canucks consecutively and then two games later shutout the Oilers as well. Corey Crawford has been masterful in their net, and it's he the Stars will see this evening with their weary back-to-back legs.
Offensively they've been good, but not great. 54 goals in that twenty-game span, good for 2.7 per night, but that's all they've needed. Of those 54 goals Patrick Kane figured in... 27.
Fans of math will note this constitutes 50% of their offense over the course of their last seven weeks of play. So do you stop him tonight when he's on the road? It would be a rare feat. He's scored in 13 consecutive road contests.
Heading into play Monday night he ranked second in the league among forwards at 21:16 of ice time per game, and has hit over 23 minutes a couple of times lately -- he's out there more than a third of the time. Lindy Ruff now gets to worry about who to match that time with.
And oh yeah, Jonathan Toews comes out when he leaves.
Their recent trade of Trevor Daley to those Pittsburgh Penguins that have already come calling to the AAC means that #6 will not get to be welcomed back by the home town this season, but tonight should feature the stylings of Ryan Garbutt.
Modest proposal: Put Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel on ice. Watch what happens.
On the Stars' side they're following up yet another comeback in Minnesota last night after falling behind 2-0 quickly on shots from some distance, precipitating a change in net from Kari Lehtonen to Antti Niemi, who was clearly meant to start this evening in the original plan.
Ruff made the call and turned the game around immediately in the first period last night with the switch, and it makes the decision here today all the more interesting. There could be a limited morning skate with few participants, so perhaps we'll find out then.
Dallas scored six times in the game's final 25 minutes last night, including empty netters from Cody Eakin and Vern Fiddler in the dying minutes. The win pushes them to 52 points and maintains the little separation they have in the Central ahead of critical meetings with the St. Louis Blues over the weekend.
From Stars PR:
The Dallas Stars faceoff against the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time during the 2015-16 season on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. The Stars and Blackhawks play five times this season with three of the five games taking place in the Lone Star State. Dallas earned points in four of their five games against Chicago (2-1-2) last season, including both on home ice (1-0-1). In the most recent game at American Airlines Center, Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped all 33 shots faced to help lead the Stars to a 4-0 win on March 21, 2015. Defenseman Alex Goligoski (0-2=2) and forwards Jason Spezza (1-1=2) and Patrick Eaves (0-2=2) each tallied multi-point games.
SHARP DRESSED MAN
Stars forward Patrick Sharp is scheduled to skate against his former club on Tuesday night for the first time during the regular season since being traded to Dallas. The native of Winnipeg, Man. spent 10 seasons with the Blackhawks organization, skating in 679 regular season and tallying 511 points (239-272=511). He also appeared in 129 career postseason games, while winning three Stanley Cups with Chicago (2010, 2013, 2015), registering 81 points (43-38=81). He was selected as the MVP of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game. He was acquired via trade on July 10 along with defenseman Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. This season with the Stars, Sharp ranks fourth on the club in points (24), goals (11) and assists (13).