The NHL schedule is a strange beast, isn’t it? We were just lamenting how the Chicago Blackhawks had to play five games in seven days. Now, it’s been four days since their last game. Anyway, that long layoff ends on Thursday night, with the Hawks flying south to take on a Central Division opponent in the Dallas Stars.
Chicago and Dallas met for a home-and-home series three weeks ago, during the aforementioned seven-day, five-game stretch for the Hawks. Dallas picked up wins via overtime and via shootout, with the Hawks grabbing a pity point in each contest. Things haven’t been so great for the Stars since then, who’ve lost six of eight. On Tuesday, they traded away Jamie Oleksiak, apparently to the delight of our friends over at Defending Big D, who believe that trade will get youngster Julius Honka into the lineup. While hopes can remain high for Honka, the rest of Dallas’ D corps is plenty of cause for concern. Top-pairing guy John Klingberg recently had this happen to him. Dan Hamhuis is still trying to figure out how to stop Patrick Kane in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs like he said he would. And Stephen Johns’ NHL prospects remains a question mark. All that in front of Ben Bishop who, while certainly tall, has posted a .908 save percentage and 2.76 goals-against average that will inspire little to no confidence. It doesn’t get too much better on offense, with leading scorers Tyler Seguin (no goals in eight games) and Jamie Benn (three goals in 15 games) mired in scoring droughts.
Things are better in Chicago, which feels like quite the role reversal from three weeks ago. Five wins a row will do that. Although both Cody Franson and Jan Rutta appear healthy, coach Joel Quenneville has opted to keep his D pairings the same, which means Jordan Oesterle and Michal Kempny will remain in the lineup. The forwards will only look a tad different (although significantly less handsome), as Richard Panik returns to the lineup at the cost of one Patrick Sharp. Corey Crawford heads back into the net because why the hell wouldn’t he?
The Hawks arrow is pointing up, while the Stars is heading in the opposite direction. With these two teams deadlocked at 39 points, a regulation victory will help the recoup some of the points lost in prior meetings with the Stars, and could finally give Chicago some cushion over a few other teams in the division. Hard to call any one game in an 82-game season a “must-win,” but divisional victories carry significantly more weight than the others. No reason to let this prime opportunity go to waste.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Alex DeBrincat|
|F2||Nick Schmaltz - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Ryan Hartman - Vinnie Hinostroza - Richard Panik|
|F4||Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Gustav Forsling - Connor Murphy|
|F1||Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore|
|F2||Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Alexander Radulov|
|F3||Antoine Rouseel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick|
|F4||Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Gemel Smith|
|D1||Esa Lindell - John Klingberg|
|D2||Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn|
|D3||Stephen Johns - Julius Honka|
How to watch Blackhawks vs. Stars
Time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: American Airlines Center, Dallas
TV: NBC Sports Chicago