The Dallas Stars are 0-3-1 versus the Chicago Blackhawks in the season series so far this year. They’ll look to get their first win in the final chance at them this season when the Stars travel to United Center tonight.
Last year, this matchup would have been a guaranteed fun night full of high-event hockey on both sides of the puck. There was also always the chance for fireworks with Antoine Roussel in the lineup, as he’s had a penchant for getting under the Hawks skins for a few years now.
Sadly, the Stars of this year are ghosts of last year’s team, and Antoine Roussel is out with a hand injury.
So what is Chicago playing for tonight? To be honest, not much. At this point, with just nine games left in the season and barring any massive hiccups, the Blackhawks should have the #1 seed in the Central on lock. (The Minnesota Wild are the closest to them and sit six points behind them with a game in hand.)
With home ice and the top seed all but wrapped up, Chicago is likely playing out the string of games with two goals in mind: 1) don’t incur any major injuries; and, 2) continue to play the right way so that they enter the postseason on a good note.
What is Dallas playing for? Pride, mainly. Experience for the younger players is another benefit they can get out of these last games. There’s not much in the way of spoiler they can play to Chicago at this point in the season, so this game should be more about understanding where guys like Remi Elie and Stephen Johns and Jamie Oleksiak stand in regards to skillset and what that does for the Stars organization moving forward.
We’ll keep an eye on morning skate for any potential callups. With 10 games left in the season, and the Texas Stars needing a fairly substantial run of their own to try to sneak into the playoffs, it’s possible that young near-NHL ready players such as Julius Honka will be called up to get a dose of games for evaluation.
With Jason Spezza doubtful to play due to back spasms (his second game in a row in which this has been an issue) the Stars could use it as an opportunity to see what Jason Dickinson looks like or maybe give Matej Stransky a chance to get his feet wet.
Dallas also has a back-to-back, with a third game in the last month against the San Jose Sharks at home tomorrow night, so insurance for other possible injuries to the forward corps may also prompt the Stars to make a callup.