The Chicago Blackhawks kick off their season in the Lone Star State on Thursday night with a season opener against the Dallas Stars after coming a bounce away from making the Stanley Cup Final.
This is the first of five meetings between the Stars and Blackhawks this season after Chicago posted a 4-1-0 record against Dallas in 2013-14. The Blackhawks have won nine of the last 11 meetings, including six straight wins in Dallas.
The Blackhawks added just one big-name player during the offseason, signing center Brad Richards to a one-year contract. Richards spent parts of four season with the Stars from 2007-11. He had a respectable season in 2013-14 with 20 goals and 51 points in 82 games for the Rangers and is expected to center the Blackhawks' third line.
The biggest moves the Blackhawks made this offseason were signing franchise centerpieces Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to identical eight-year, $84 million extensions. Both have performed well not only in the regular season, but in the 2014 postseason as well. Kane notched 20 points and Toews scored nine goals with 17 points.
Defenseman Nick Leddy is now gone after a trade that sent him to the New York Islanders to free up cap space last week. The trade breaks up Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya as the team's second blue line pair. Hjalmarsson will pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Oduya with David Rundblad.
Michal Rozsival is out with an upper-body injury and forward Kris Versteeg is expected to miss three weeks with a lower-body injury. Fan-favorite Jeremy Morin is expected to fill in for Versteeg.
Same lines as yesterday: Sharp-Toews-Hossa, Saad-Shaw-Kane, Bickell-Richards-Smith, Morin-Kruger-Carcillo. #Blackhawks— Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) October 9, 2014
Corey Crawford will get the start in net and is a career 8-5-0 against Dallas with a 2.40 goals against average and .904 save percentage in 14 games.
Injuries: F Kris Versteeg (lower body) and D Michal Rozsival (upper body) are out
Opponent Breakdown: Dallas Stars
Under first-year Stars coach Lindy Ruff, the Stars made it to the postseason for the first time since 2008, but were sent packing by former Pacific Division foe Anaheim in six games during the opening round. Dallas is viewed as a team on the rise with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, recieving help from the front office with the acquisition of Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators. The former Sens' captain posted 23 goals and 66 points last season.
Ales Hemsky also signed a three-year deal and showed chemistry with Spezza last season. Hemsky recorded 17 points in 20 games as Spezza's teammate after he was acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline from Edmonton.
Seguin finished fourth in the NHL with 84 points with team highs in goals (37) and assists (47), while Benn had career-highs with 34 goals and 45 assists. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar is on injured reserve with a fractured ankle, but the Stars signed restricted free agent Brenden Dillon to a one-year contract a week ago. The 23-year-old defenseman had 17 points last season.
Stars lines this morning: Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin; Eaves-Spezza-Hemsky; Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt; Horcoff-Fiddler-Sceviour— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) October 9, 2014
Kari Lehtonen appeared in 65 games a season ago and is expected to get the start in net. The 30-year-old is a career 5-6-2 with a 2.81 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 13 games against the Blackhawks. Dallas was 4-2-0 in the preseason.
Injuries: D Sergei Gonchar (ankle) is out and C Rich Peverley (heart) is on injured non-roster status.
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: American Airlines Arena in Dallas
Radio: WGN 720-AM
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