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Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight): Blackhawks-Stars Preview

The Blackhawks need a rebound performance after Friday’s loss to the Predators.

Chicago Blackhawks v Dallas Stars Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s another Central Division opponent on the schedule for the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night as the team flies south to Texas to face the Dallas Stars.

And Chicago is in need of a serious rebound following Friday’s dismal 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators.

Dallas needs some redemption as well, with the Stars mired in a losing skid that reached five games after a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. Much like the Blackhawks of late, scoring goals has not been easy for the Stars. They’ve scored one goal in each of the last three games and were shutout in the game before that. Dallas has also allowed an average of 3.8 goals during this 5-game skid, so it would appear that being unable to score goals while allowing a high number of them is not a strategy that results in winning hockey — more on this story as it develops. If there’s good news for the Stars ahead of this game, it’s that they’ve been better at home (9-3-1) than they have been on the road (4-9-1).

The Stars have had some lineup issues, as a non-COVID illness has torn through the locker room. But all of the forwards were back in the lineup against the Blues on Thursday and that still wasn’t enough to snap the slump. The top line of Jason Robertson (9 G, 13 A), Roope Hintz (11 G, 7 A) and Joe Pavelski (9 G, 13 A) account for Dallas’ top three point-producers this season and must be held in check if the Blackhawks are going to notch two points. Behind them, scoring has been few and far between in Dallas. Jamie Benn (7 G, 6 A) and tyler Seguin (7 G, 4 A) have been producing well below their usual rates. On the blue line, Miro Heiskanen (3 G, 13 A) remains one of the league’s brightest young stars but he missed Thursday’s game due to that aforementioned non-COVID illness and his status for Saturday’s game remained questionable. In net, Jake Oettinger (5-2-0, .938 SV%, 1.88 GAA) and Braden Holtby (5-7-1, .922, 2.44) have decent season-long numbers but have each struggled behind the team’s subpar play in the last few weeks.

As for the Blackhawks, one roster move of note saw Ian Mitchell recalled from the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday morning, suggesting he could be in the lineup against Dallas. It won’t be too far of a commute for Mitchell, either, with the IceHogs playing Friday night in Cedar Park, just outside of Austin. Official word will have to come later on Saturday, with the team having no morning skate after playing at home on Friday night. The expectation here is that Kevin Lankinen will get the nod in net after Fleury handled the prior game, but with Chicago’s next scheduled game not until Thursday — fingers crossed — it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Fleury get another run.

Regardless of how the team is formulated, this is another game of the utmost importance to the Blackhawks, who remain 11 points behind the fourth-place Colorado Avalanche in the Central Division. Chicago missed a golden opportunity to take two points in regulation from Nashville on Friday night, and doing so again will pour more dirt back into the standings hole that the Blackhawks have been desperately trying to escape since the coaching change.

In the last 14 games, Chicago has alternated wins and losses. After losing on Friday, recent history suggests it’s time for a win on Saturday.

So let’s do that.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars

46.51% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.81% (20th)

45.29% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.52% (17th)

2.28 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.59 (27th)

3.21 (23rd) — Goals against per game — 2.85 (16th)

49.4% (19th) — Faceoffs — 55.0% (2nd)

18.3% (19th) — Power play — 25.7% (5th)

78.1% (23rd) — Penalty kill — 78.3% (15th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Hagel — Toews — Gabriel

Kubalik — Dach — Kurashev

Entwistle — Carpenter — Slavin

McCabe(?) — S. Jones

C. Jones — Murphy

Stillman(?) — Gustafsson/Mitchell(?)

Lankinen

Fleury

Stars

Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski

Peterson — Benn — Seguin

Raffl — Faksa — Radulov

Tufte — Glendening — Gurianov

Suter — Klingberg

Lindell — Hakanpaa

Harley — Sekera

Oettinger

Holtby

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+