With the Colorado Avalanche thumping the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime last night, the Dallas Stars roll into Chicago tonight seeking out a win. With the tiebreaker advantage already in hand, the Stars can wrap up the first wild card spot with a single point. The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, are seeking to spoil the fun, as they’ll miss the postseason this year.
A regulation loss on Friday night would set up a wild Saturday of hockey, where Dallas could end the day facing any of four separate opponents in the first round of the playoffs.
One of the advantages of clinching a playoff spot a bit early is the ability to reset before a first round matchup. The Dallas Stars seem to be taking full advantage, even with this penultimate game.
Bishop, Benn, Polak, and Zuccarello will not travel to Chicago and rest. Bishop possibly in Saturday. Zuccarello is feeling good and may not play Saturday if he doesn’t need game to get ready for playoffs— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) April 4, 2019
With Chicago playing out the string, the main goals (apart from securing that top Wild Card spot) are to stay healthy and to get some reps in for players who haven’t seen the ice in a while.
The Stars trio who have played each game this year will likely draw in for the final two. That means that we’ll see Tyler Seguin, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen in both games this weekend.
On the other side of the coin, the Blackhawks appear to be making an effort to play spoiler, at least in games with playoff implications. Against St. Louis on Wednesday night, they played a pretty standard lineup, with the exception of giving Dennis Gilbert a one-game NHL look on third pair.
This is a rivalry game and it’s the last game at the United Center for the year. Fan appreciation week is ending and the Blackhawks Foundation is running a $100,000 guarantee for their 50/50 raffle. Expect an arena full of Spaten drinking, Chelsea Dagger loving, Native American sweater wearing fanatics pulling for a Stars’ implosion.
Of course, there are some wonderful memories for Dallas fans in Chicago.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Roope Hintz - Justin Dowling - Tyler Pitlick
Joel L’Esperance - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Ben Lovejoy
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun
Chicago Blackhawks Lineup
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Brendan Perlini
Drake Caggiula - Dylan Strome - Dominik Kahun
Alex DeBrincat - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
Chris Kunitz - John Hayden - Marcus Kruger
Duncan Keith - Erik Gustafsson
Carl Dahlstrom - Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling - Connor Murphy
Keys to the Game
- The Stars have had a few days of practice over the last week. This is a great game to work on fundamentals, especially for players who have recently missed time or are playing up in the lineup.
- Stretch passes and speed. The Blackhawks play a fast game and it will test the Stars back end. This is the game where the team can reward its goaltenders for bailing them out throughout the year and set Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin up to win the Jennings Trophy.
- Chicago is going to want to send their fans home happy after a disappointing season. The Stars need to stay focused and not let the game get chippy.
Did you know?
The last season that the Dallas Stars made the playoffs and the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t was 2007-08. That Stars team, including Stu Barnes as that year’s Radek Faksa, made the Conference Final. For the Blackhawks, Patrick Kane won the Calder Trophy and Jonathan Toews also made the NHL All Rookie first team.