For the first time in 2021, the Blackhawks will host the Stars at the United Center on Tuesday evening, the first of yet another two-game set against a Central Division opponent.
The four prior 2021 games between these two divisional foes have all taken place in Dallas, with Chicago winning the first two in overtime and the teams splitting the second stanza, leaving the Blackhawks with a 3-1 record against the Stars so far this season.
Dallas has been in the center of the hockey news following bizarre developments during Sunday’s game against the Hurricanes, when coach Rick Bowness was pulled from the bench during the second intermission due to COVID-19 protocols. The Stars remained confident that Bowness — who is fully vaccinated — was sidelined by a false positive. Assistant coach John Stevens took over for the third period and may be the acting head coach for this pair of games as Bowness undergoes further analysis.
On the ice, the last month of Dallas hockey has been a lesson in volatility. Dallas opened March on the tail end of a four-game losing streak and saw each of its March victories followed by at least two consecutive losses. Dallas did win its first two games in April before being shutout by Carolina on Sunday. It’s all ended up with Dallas at an even 13-13-10, tied with the Blackhawks for fifth place in the standings at a .500 points percentage. Both Dallas and Chicago are looking up at Nashville, which currently owns fourth place with 41 points in 39 games (.526 points percentage).
Lately, Dallas has struggled to score goals, surpassing two goals just one time in its last five. Most of the Stars’ offense is confined to its first line, which contains leading scorer Joe Pavelski (15 G, 19 A), runner-up Roope Hintz (11 G, 13 A) and Jason Robertson (8 G, 16 A). On the blue line, John Klingberg (6 G, 19 A) and Miro Heiskanen (5 G, 15 A) offer additional offensive thrust. Beyond those top players, though, Dallas’ scoring depth leaves much to be desired. In net, Anton Khudobin (7-9-4, 2.48 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) and Jake Oettinger (6-4-6, 2.24, .918) have been good enough to keep the Stars afloat.
For the Hawks, with a brutal month of March now in the rearview mirror, chances aplenty will arise in April for the Hawks to remain relevant in the playoff chase. Chicago is 4-10 in its last 14, but games against less intimidating opponents await. News from Monday’s practice had Vinnie Hinostroza skating on a line with Dominik Kubalik and Phillip Kurashev, although coach Jeremy Colliton was his typical non-committal self when asked if that would be Tuesday’s lineup. One thing was clear on Tuesday, though: Kevin Lankinen will be in net again.
Lankinen officially starting.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 6, 2021
Vinnie Hinostroza will make his Blackhawks re-debut. Highmore scratched.
There’s no secret here. Chicago is in the middle of a playoff chase and Dallas is one of its closest competitors in said chase. Securing two points is essential and doing so without allowing their opponents to steal a point with an overtime result would be wise. As mentioned several times before at this site, it’s the type of game that the Blackhawks have struggled to win under this regime. Consider this the right place and the right time to buck that trend.
Let’s go Hawks!
Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars
46.43% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi for — 52.18% (6th)
45.55% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 52.25 (8th)
2.74 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.69 (19th)
3.08 (22nd) — Goals against per game — 2.50 (7th)
46.3% (28th) — Faceoffs — 50.1% (18th)
25.8% (5th) — Power play — 25.0% (6th)
73.6% (28th) — Penalty kill — 77.1% (22nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Dach — Kane
Kubalik — Kurashev — Hinostroza
Janmark — Suter — Strome
Hagel — Kampf — Carpenter
Zadorov — Murphy
Keith — Boqvist
de Haan — Kalynuk
Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski
Benn — Dowling — Gurianov
Cogliano — Gardner — Comeau
Caamano — Kero — Dellandrea
Lindell — Klingberg
Oleksiak — Heiskanen
Sekera — Pysyk
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV, ESPN+