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John Klingberg Returns for Divisional Matchup Against Chicago Blackhawks

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Holiday season brings a familiar foe, without some familiar faces, back to the American Airlines Center. And an early gift!

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars riding high again with John Klingberg cleared to play.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last year on the Thursday before Christmas, the Dallas Stars enjoyed a 4-0 Ben Bishop shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks. Tyler Seguin scored two second period goals

So much for the old lede. John Klingberg received medical clearance to play, and he is in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Other than not playing on the penalty kill, expect Klingberg to be back in his familiar role, with Esa Lindell on his left side. That news, combined with a 2-0 shutout of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, has memories of the recent 0-4-0 road trip fading fast.

What a difference a week makes.

With Connor Carrick and Stephen Johns skating during team practices, and Klingberg back in the lineup, Joel Hanley has cleared waivers and is back with the Texas Stars. The question on the horizon is what to do with Taylor Fedun, Julius Honka and Gavin Bayreuther.

On offense, the Stars controlled the crease, and every line contributed to dominant first and second periods on Tuesday. The third period saw a combination of score effects and an invigorated Flames offense, but high danger scoring chances were kept to a minimum. Calgary’s shots were mostly from the outside, and those that weren’t were calmly handled by Ben Bishop.

Dallas - Calgary Shot Attempts
Calgary - Dallas Shot Attempts

The Blackhawks enter Dallas with a 2-7-1 record in their last ten games, but one of those wins was a 2-1 decision at home against the Nashville Predators Tuesday night. Their recent four game homestand also included a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins and an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets (plus a forgettable outing against the San Jose Sharks).

In spite of collecting only five points in the last ten games, some in the local press argue that Chicago is on it’s best stretch since Jeremy Colliton took over from Joel Quenneville on election day.

Of foremost concern for Blackhawks fans is the status of Corey Crawford, who left the Penguins game over the weekend with a concussion that put him on injured reserve. In his place, Chicago is leaning on Cam Ward (.888 SV% and 3.95 GAA) and call-up Collin Delia.

In addition to the Crawford injury, the Blackhawks lost Marcus Kruger to a concussion against the Predators. Defender Henri Jokiharju was loaned to Finland for the World Junior Championship. Artem Anisimov (concussion) and Gustav Forsling (back injury) rejoined the lineup on Tuesday, and Luke Johnson was recalled from the AHL to replace Kruger.

Chicago Blackhawks lineup

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsDominik Kahun
Dylan StromeArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDavid KampfDylan Sikura
John HaydenLuke JohnsonBrendan Perlini

Duncan KeithErik Gustafsson
Gustav Forsling — Brent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy

Cam Ward

Dallas Stars lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Radek Faksa - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Blake Comeau
Valeri Nichushkin - Devin Shore - Denis Gurianov

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Taylor Fedun
Gavin Bayreuther - Roman Polak

Ben Bishop

Keys to the Game

John Klingberg is back. How quickly does he return to his pre-injury form, and perhaps more importantly, how does the team adjust to getting their key playmaker back? An early game letdown could lead to the Stars chasing the game, an all too familiar position during Klingberg’s absence.

Chicago is a wounded team, but they have a championship pedigree. Again, a quick start could put the Blackhawks on their heels, especially if they start looking forward toward their Friday night game at Colorado. The Stars swept the Blackhawks 4-0 last year, but two of those games went to overtime and this group will not just roll over.

All four Stars lines contributed to the win over Calgary on Tuesday night. Dallas needs to maintain the momentum, top to bottom, from those first two periods and continue their season long home dominance. The team does not need passengers.

Did you know? If you go to the United Center, don’t mess with Tommy Hawk. Mascots that suplex and headlock are not to be trifled with.