The Chicago Blackhawks take a quick trip to Texas to face the Dallas Stars on Wednesday for the first meeting between the Central Division foes this season. They’re on opposite sides of the division standings right now, with Dallas atop the Central thanks in part to a 4-1-1 record against divisional opponents while Chicago is second to last with an 0-3-1 mark against the same teams.
The Stars are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night in a matchup that — despite it being not even 20 games into the season — will impact who wins the division. Dallas is first in the Central with 25 points in 19 games, but its points percentage of .658 trails both the Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets (.676 each), who both have compiled 23 points in 17 games. Stars’ wonderkid Jason Roberton scored twice in that Monday game against Colorado — including the game-tying goal with 26 seconds left in regulation — before Mikko Rantanen scored the lone shootout goal to win it for Colorado.
Thanks in part to Robertson, the Stars are off to one of their best offensive seasons in years with the second best goals-per-game rate in the league at 3.84 — it’s been seven seasons since they’ve been in the top half of the league in scoring. Robertson is third in the league with 14 goals and is on a 12-game point streak, bringing his total to 29 in 19 games. Forwards Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, and Jamie Benn all have better than a point-per-game average while defensemen Miro Heiskanen has 12 points (2 G, 10 A) in 16 games for the best point-per-game rate (0.75) of his young career.
Now, some of that offense is inflated by an unsustainable 5-on-5 shooting percentage of nearly 12 percent, but the talent at the top and depth for the Stars still make them a formidable opponent. This is especially true when you factor in that Dallas is in the league’s top five for both the penalty kill and power play while also having one of the best goalies: Jake Oettinger, who has a .929 save-percentage in 13 games this season.
The Stars are also very healthy at the moment with only third-liner Denis Gurianov (upper body) among the regulars that might be out Wednesday against Chicago.
The Blackhawks are coming off a solid outing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite losing 5-3. Not only did they erase a 3-0 deficit to almost complete a comeback win, it was the first game since the season opener against the Avs that the Blackhawks outshot their opponent. Unfortunately, Sidney Crosby finally scored his first goal in Chicago (and had a four-point night) to seal the Penguins victory. The Penguins also had the better share of high danger chances at 5-on-5 (11-4), but it was hard to be disappointed by the effort from the Blackhawks, as that game was one of their best in a long while.
However, the Blackhawks need to figure out how to both put in that effort every game and then turn that effort into a win every once in while. This may be a bit of a throw-away season, but only winning two out of the last 12 and losing four in a row is just depressing. Chicago also dropped to dead last in the NHL goals scored per game (2.44) and fell below the 40 percent mark for expected goals share (39.81)
On the bright side, Patrick Kane scored his first goal in over 10 games. He’s not a stranger to goal droughts in the last few years — he had a 13-game goalless streak last season before ending with 26 goals in 78 games — so hopefully he’s gotten that out of the way now. Philipp Kurashev scored the game-tying goal, his first goal in over 10 games as well — but it was also Kurashev’s third point in the last three games. In a season devoid of young talent to root for, it’s great to see Kurashev get rewarded again for his elevated play this season.
Outside of goals, Jonathan Toews picked up his 499th career assist, so he could hit 500 against the Stars on Wednesday to become just the eighth player in Blackhawks history to reach that number of assists.
In surprising news, Seth Jones is expected to play in Dallas on Wednesday. The defensemen has been out with a thumb injury for three weeks and was expected to be evaluated in the next few days, but apparently he pushed hard to play in his hometown, although he’ll still be wearing a splint while playing:
Seth Jones said he has to wear a splint on his thumb for a few weeks, which will be a bit restricting: "That's challenging. I can't move it or do much with it but it is what it is."— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) November 22, 2022
Jones hasn't been skating with the splint though so he's getting used to it. #Blackhawks https://t.co/zK7eGP34MP
His return will obviously mean someone else will be sitting out for the defensemen, the most likely options being his brother Caleb (because of his struggles lately) or Ian Mitchell (last one in, first one out).
Tyler Johnson (ankle) is still out and may be a little longer than expected due to some lingering soreness.
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars
41.24% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.03% (15th)
39.81% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 50.54% (16th)
2.44 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.84 (2nd)
3.39 (23rd) — Goals against per game — 2.68 (6th)
57.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 54.2% (3rd)
21.4% (14th) — Power play — 88.6% (4th)
75.4% (24th) — Penalty kill — 82.7% (5th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Domi — Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
R. Johnson — Khaira — Blackwell
J. Johnson — S. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — Roos/Mitchell/C. Jones
Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski
Marchment — Seguin — Benn
Blümel — Johnston — Dellandrea
Kiviranta — Faksa — Glendening
Heiskanen — Miller
Suter — Lundkvist
Lindell — Hakanpää
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV