Two of the best teams in the Western Conference face off Saturday as the Blackhawks visit the Stars in Dallas. Chicago is going for its third straight win to open the second half of the season after earning victories over Colorado and Arizona earlier in the week.
The Hawks and Stars are separated by just three points in the standings. Chicago has 74 points in 55 games while Dallas has 71 points in 52 games. With three games in hand, the Hawks' lead isn't quite as impressive as it looks at first glance, but adding another two points with a victory Saturday would certainly help.
Jonathan Toews scored the game-winner in overtime against the Coyotes on Thursday night. He looked recovered from the illness that kept him out of the All-Star Game -- and led to a suspension for the Avalanche game. Over the past two games, the Hawks have outshot their opponents, 82-51, which is a sign of a team playing some great hockey.
Now the Hawks just need to get their power play going again. The team has failed to convert its past 11 power plays and 18 of its past 19 opportunities with the man advantage. Chicago is still seventh overall in power play efficiency this season at 20.6 percent, but that number hasn't been trending in the right direction over the past couple weeks.
Stars | Record: 33-14-5 | 71 points | 2nd in Central Division
Dallas has the best goal differential in the Western Conference and the second best offense in the NHL. The team has won four of its past five games after going through a rough stretch in January and appears to be finding its groove again. That should make for an exciting matchup Saturday between two teams who can really rack up goals.
Defense is where the Stars are lacking as the team has been in the middle of the pack this season. The team allowed 3.2 goals per game in January and gave up three goals in each of its wins to open February. The offense is good enough to overcome those issues on most nights thanks to the firepower from Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and others.
Benn is second in the NHL behind Patrick Kane with 58 points in 52 games. Seguin isn't far behind with 55 points. John Klingberg (43 points), Jason Spezza (40 points) and Patrick Sharp (40 points) are all putting up big numbers as well. Spezza will be out due to an upper body injury, however.
In their last game, Dallas slid Mattias Janmark over to center and Valeri Nichushkin to the top line to make up Spezza's absence. That's the projected look shown below with 2012 first-round pick Radek Faksa, who was recently recalled when Spezza went on LTIR, as the fourth-line center.
Blackhawks: Marcus Kruger
Stars: Jason Spezza
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
TV: WGN, NHL Network