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Preview: Battle for the Central Division as Chicago Blackhawks visit Dallas Stars

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It's 7:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest locally and NHL Network nationally, why not.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars will face their most brutal challenge of the season this evening. The Chicago Blackhawks have come to Dallas and intend on taking the Central Division with them when they leave.

The Stars will face Jon Toews and Patrick Kane. They'll face Andrew Ladd, again. They'll see the Hawks with Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann, and Christian Ehrhoff. All their new toys. Chicago has added, and in recent days the Stars have done just the opposite.

The Stars will not have Patrick Sharp. Or John Klingberg. Or Jason Demers. Or Jordie Benn. What they will have is a defense that's less than 50% of what they started the season with, and one containing two rookies and a new-comer.

On top of all that, what the Stars face tonight is 18,532 loud human beings- A percentage of which will be smelling all that aforementioned blood in the metaphorical water. Their garb will look a lot like it.

It will again be a sea of red greeting the beleagured home team in what's looking like the perfect storm at American Airlines Center tonight.

Oh and the St. Louis Blues will be here tomorow.

Dallas could make a bold statement this weekend. They could see an overtime or two and not fall behind or improve. They could, with a Nashville win, see their home-ice playoff matchup dissappear and sit just five points out of a wild card spot on top of the injuries.

It's wonderful. It's terrifying. It's a potential powder-keg. What a time to be a Stars fan.

Between Klingberg and Demers it's 44 minutes of ice time the Stars have to replace moving forward.

"I'm taking it week by week," Demers told the Dallas Morning News. "I'm just going to do everything I can to get back. Right now, it's get the pain and swelling down. I'm going to stay in shape and hope for the best. It's just a question of where we are in the season. If there is a way, I'll figure it out."

So you'll see something like this tonight:

Russell-Goligoski
Oduya-Johns
Nemeth-Oleksiak

Against the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Lindy Ruff split Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up in practice, as you've no doubt heard by now. Forward configuration changes have not always translated to in-game deployment realities during this coaching staff's tenure- So keep an eye on that this evening.

The Hawks got beat in a shootout, allowing the Blues two points Wednesday night in St. Louis. Chicago allowed two power play goals in regulation while scoring one of their own and Jake Allen stopped 33 of 35 shots in the win.

Curiously, the Blackhawks have overtaken the Stars without having beaten a Western Conference team in their last 10 games going back to February 11th. Their last Western Conference win? That 5-1 drubbing of the Stars on a weekend like this one tonight.

Their lineup with all the additions:

Ladd-Toews-Shaw
Panarin-Anisimov-Kane
Desjardins-Teravainen-Fleischmann
Mashinter-Rasmussen-Weise

Keith-Hjalmarsson
Gustafsson-Seabrook
van Reimsdyk-Rozsival

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

From Stars PR:

BLACKHAWK DOWN
The Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks meet for the fourth of five games during the 2015-16 regular season on Friday night at American Airlines Center. The Stars lead the season series (2-1-0) and look to record the second win this season on home ice against their Central Division rivals. In the most recent meeting of the season series on Feb. 11 at United Center in Chicago, the Stars beat the Blackhawks, 4-2. Stars forward Patrick Eaves recorded a hat trick (3-0=3) in the first period of the game, becoming the second player in franchise history and the first player since the Stars moved to Dallas to tally three-plus goals in the first period of a game. Forward Tyler Seguin (0-2=2) and defenseman John Klingberg (1-1=2) each recorded multi-point games for Dallas, with goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopping a season-high 44-of-46 shots faced on the evening.

HE'S A SPEZZ-CIAL PLAYER
Stars center Jason Spezza recorded a goal (1-0=1) against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night and now has a four-game goal streak (4-0=4) along with goals in six of his last eight games (7-0=7). Spezza's four-game goal streak marks the first time he's potted a goal in four straight contests since Oct. 18 - Oct. 25, 2011 (4-4=8) as a member of the Ottawa Senators. The native of Toronto, Ont. currently ranks fourth on the team with 49 points (25-24=49) this season and ranks third on the club with 25 goals. He has points in nine-straight games against Chicago (2-8=10) and has registered a point in all but one of his 13 career games against them, tallying a total of 13 points (2-11=13).