When the Dallas Stars traveled to Chicago to take on the Blackhawks on Thursday night, the game featured everything: plenty of time spent on special teams (skewed more for the penalty kill than the power play for Dallas), a shorthanded penalty shot goal, three one-goal leads lost, and 3-on-3 overtime.
It was an exciting game (if not slightly heartburn-inducing for both teams, if we’re being honest.)
Today, the Blackhawks will travel to Dallas in an effort to steal two points away from them on home ice. It’ll be revenge for losing on Thursday.
The big storyline for the second matchup of these two teams is the fact that, seemingly out of the blue yesterday, Chicago announced that starting goaltender Corey Crawford was put on injured reserved. He didn’t seem to be injured enough when he played against the Stars two days ago to take himself out of the full game, including overtime.
Second City Hockey thinks that the Stars will likely face off tonight against Anton Forsberg, the 25-year-old backup Chicago acquired when they traded for Brandon Saad this summer. He’s appeared in seven games in Chicago this season, and has a 1-2-2 record, 3.67 goals against average, and a 90.4% save percentage.
As for the Stars, the big questions on the roster decisions for tonight’s game will be which forward comes out (Remi Elie? Gemel Smith? Brett Ritchie?) and which blueliner comes out (Jamie Oleksiak? Julius Honka?) Since Dallas didn’t have practice yesterday - the Stars are in the midst of a run of 7 games in 12 nights - line decisions won’t be available until after morning skate. In the meantime, here are three things we’re keeping an eye on in tonight’s re-match of Stars vs Blackhawks.
1) Can the sudden spurt of secondary scoring come from guys not named Radek Faksa or Mattias Janmark?
This isn’t meant to discount the accomplishments of either of those guys that were on fire on the recent road trip. But it would be great for guys like Jason Spezza to find the back of the net again. The big trio of Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov seem to find points on home ice, as well as John Klingberg from the backend. The secondary scoring has been coming on lately, but the trick is finding it consistently — and among all lines.
2) Will Dallas be able to contain Alex DeBrincat tonight?
The Stars couldn’t contain Chicago’s top rookie on Thursday night. At home, with last match available to the coaching staff, some line is going to have a hard draw tonight trying to keep him off the scoresheet.
3) With two divisional matchups on a back-to-back this weekend, which one does Ben Bishop get and which one does Kari Lehtonen get?
This, of course, assumes that Ken Hitchcock doesn’t want to ride his starting goaltender for both, of course. With this many games in a short amount of time, and not much in terms of off days for rest, logic says that each goaltender gets one game of the set this weekend.
Bishop didn’t exactly look lights-out on Thursday night, even if some of the goals against weren’t all his fault. Lehtonen hasn’t played a game since November 18th. If I had to guess, I’d imagine that Bishop plays tonight and Lehtonen tomorrow versus Colorado. That’s mainly because it would allow for the team to potentially put more distance between them and Chicago, who sit right behind them in standings.
However, I could see the reverse happening as well. Given that the Blackhawks will potentially be starting a rookie goaltender in net, maybe they give Lehtonen the shot at home versus Chicago and then use Bishop in Colorado when the team is more rested.
Which way would you deploy the goaltenders this weekend?
Puck drop tonight is at 8 PM CST. The broadcast will be available locally on FSSW, on local radio at 96.7 FM The Ticket, and online at theticket.com.