The Dallas Stars are currently 8-10-0 against Central Division opponents and has a losing record with every team in their division besides two: the Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Stars are now even at against the Wild (one win/one loss), and are undefeated, 3-0, against the Blackhawks.
Dallas hasn’t been able to completely sweep Chicago in 11 years, and the Stars have only been able to accomplish this feat twice in their entire history. They were able to do it back in 2006 with the likes of Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen, Mike Modano, Eric Lindros and Trevor Daley. They also swept Chicago three years prior in 2003 with Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott, Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov.
The Blackhawks in past years have been a step ahead of the Stars with high caliber teams, including their championship teams in 2010, 2013 and 2015. But as they say, out with the old and in with the new, and hopefully this can be the case as the Stars look for a playoff run this season and continued success thereafter.
Make no mistake: even with the Blackhawks trailing the pack in the Central and down three games in their season series with Dallas, they aren’t an easy opponent by any means. Two out of the three previous games this season have gone into either overtime or the shootout. I’d expect this game to get real physical as Chicago will put up a fight as their desperation for points is at an all-time high, and losing a season series to a divisional opponent is not ideal.
However, Dallas needs points of their own, and they have a chance to make a little history in their quest for two more points — going for just the third series sweep in Stars history against the Blackhawks.
Special teams has been a huge factor so far in this series, with Chicago going 1-for-7 and Dallas going 0-for-3 on the power-play in their first match-up, a tight game that saw the Stars beat the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime. In the second game of the series, the Stars won 3-2 in a shootout win and went 1-for-5 on the power play while keeping Chicago from scoring a goal on the man advantage in three tries.
I’d expect special teams to be a key to the game tonight, too. To avoid giving away points to a divisional opponent, Dallas will need to be aggressive on the puck, as they have shown in their past games against Chicago. They’ll also need to minimize their mistakes and not let Chicago’s powerplay take the ice seven times in a game. That is just asking for trouble and has caused a couple of these games to be too close for comfort.
The Stars are on a three game win streak right now and are looking at carrying that momentum to climb up the standings, and will want to improve upon their 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks look to end their downward slope as they are 3-5-2 in their last 10 — and making up 10 points on anyone in this division at this point in the season is a steep hill to climb.
But this is the Blackhawks, and until they are eliminated from playoff contention, they’ll always be a threat — even if a bit less lethal than in years past.
DALLAS STARS LINEUP
With the win over the New York Rangers on Monday night, I’d expect the lineup to remain largely unchanged. This, of course, comes with the big caveat of “as long as Martin Hanzal is healthy” that we’ll probably have on lineups from now through the end of the season.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Devin Shore
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Earlier this week, head coach Ken Hitchcock indicated that Kari Lehtonen should be the starter tonight, with Ben Bishop getting tomorrow night’s home start versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS LINEUP
Alex DeBrincat - Jonathan Toews - Anthony Duclair
Artem Anisimov - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
Tomas Jurco - David Kampf - Vinnie Hinostroza
Patrick Sharp - Ryan Hartman - Brandon Saad
Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle
Erik Gustaffson - Brent Seabrook
Michal Kempny - Jan Rutta
Anton Forsberg is the expected starter, as Corey Crawford continues to be on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that has kept him out of the lineup since right before Christmas. He did skate for the first time since the injury last Saturday, so he could be getting closer to a return for Chicago. Crawford was posting very good numbers prior to leaving the lineup, going 16-9-2 with a .929 SV% and a 2.27 GAA.