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Doing Something Mean to It: Blackhawks vs. Stars Preview

The Blackhawks host the Stars for the last time until May.

NHL: APR 06 Stars at Blackhawks
Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen battles with Chicago Blackhawks center Mattias Janmark
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Blackhawks will look to keep pace in the Central Division standings on Thursday as they face the Stars again at the United Center.

Chicago sits two points back of Nashville for the fourth spot in the Central division. The Tuesday win over the floundering Stars — 3-4-3 in their last 10 games and on a two-game losing streak — helped them remain in striking distance of Nashville.

This time, however, Dallas head coach Rick Bowness will return to the Stars’ bench. The Stars’ bench boss had missed part of one game and all of Tuesday’s action while being in COVID-19 protocols, later confirmed as the result of a false positive test result.

The Blackhawks, after that win on Tuesday, are now 4-1-0 against the Stars this season. Tuesday’s contest was a return to the norm in terms of possession for the Blackhawks — after an uptick in production against the Predators (3.47 expected goals at 5-on-5 on April 3) the Blackhawks fell back to earth with just 1.38 expected goals at 5-on-5 against Dallas.

The good news from that game, though: all three of the Blackhawks’ goals (against a goaltender) came at 5-on-5. When Jake Oettinger is putting up a .889 save percentage, it turns out that you don’t need expected goals to score. Oettinger is having an up-and-down rookie season. He made 37 saves on 38 shots in his last game against Carolina before the not-as-good outing against Chicago. He’s also better than the alternative for Dallas, as the last time Anton Khudobin faced the Blackhawks he didn’t make a single save at 5-on-5 before being pulled, facing just four shots.

The Blackhawks’ own rookie netminder had a good game on Tuesday, making 25 saves on 27 shots and saving a full goal above expected (as he faced three). Kevin Lankinen will get the nod again Thursday, as confirmed during the morning skate.

The Blackhawks struggled putting the puck on net Tuesday, as they had just two high-danger chances at 5-on-5 in each period and again generated just 1.38 expected goals across all three periods. One line that didn’t struggle however: Philipp Kurashev, Dominik Kubalik and Vinnie Hinostroza, who played his first game back with the Blackhawks. The trio had five shots (to three against) and a 65.22 share of the expected goals during 8:24 of 5-on-5 ice time. They should be redeployed on Thursday and (hopefully) for more time.

The Stars are led by rookie Jason Robertson, who has six points in five games against the Blackhawks this season. Roope Hintz has four points. On the Blackhawks’ end, Patrick Kane has six points and Alex DeBrincat has five.

This is the last game Chicago will play against Dallas until May 9, when the teams end their seasons against each other.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars

46.38% (29th) — 5-on-5 Corsi for — 52.27% (7th)

45.47% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 52.41 (8th)

2.78 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.68 (20th)

3.05 (20th) — Goals against per game — 2.54 (9th)

46.6% (28th) — Faceoffs — 49.9% (17th)

25.2% (5th) — Power play — 24.6% (6th)

74.1% (28th) — Penalty kill — 77.8% (21st)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Dach — Kane

Kubalik — Kurashev — Hinostroza

Janmark — Suter — Strome

Hagel — Kampf — Carpenter

Keith — Boqvist

Zadorov — Murphy

de Haan — Kalynuk

Lankinen

Subban

Stars

Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski

Benn — Faksa — Gurianov

Cogliano — Gardiner — Comeau

Caamano — Dowling — Dellandrea

Lindell — Klingberg

Oleksiak — Heiskanen

Sekera — Pysyk

Oettinger

Khudobin

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: United Center

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV