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Ground Control to Major Tom: Blackhawks vs. Stars

Insert cliche rebound line here as the Blackhawks take on the Stars after their loss last night.

NHL: APR 06 Stars at Blackhawks Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After allowing a touchdown and the extra point to be scored on them Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks have to regroup quickly as they face the Dallas Stars Friday night in their second game in as many nights.

The Stars are coming off a very impressive 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night. Not only did the Stars end the Avalanche’s 19-game point streak, they also handed Colorado its first home loss in regulation since Oct. 26. The win was predominantly thanks to the effort in goal from Jake Oettinger — who made 46 saves for his 14th win this season — because the Stars only managed 19 shots on goal. Still, a win is a win, and the Stars will take it.

The Stars needed the win badly to stay in the race for the playoffs: they’re just one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for a wild card spot currently with a game in hand, but the Anaheim Ducks are right there as well with 55 points in 51 games (although Dallas does have four games in hand on Anaheim). The Stars have been performing better than those two California teams, going 7-3-0 over their last 10 games while the others are both 4-4-2, but they need to keep the momentum going against the Blackhawks to maintain their edge.

The Stars are middle of the pack offensively, but they do have a handful of players that are stellar. Joe Pavelski has 52 points (21 G, 31 A) in 47 games that is still best on the Stars. While he was having a lull for a bit there — he went six games without a point, his longest streak of such this season — he bounced back against Colorado with a four-point night (2 G, 2 A). Young star Jason Robertson, who has 46 points (21 G, 25 A) in 39 games, actually slightly edges Pavelski in terms of points-per-game. Roope Hintz (0.91 PPG) and Tyler Seguin (0.67 PPG) are the only other two forwards that are big offensive threats, but they do have John Klingberg (0.65) and Miro Heiskanen (0.59) contributing strongly on defense.

However, it’s important to note that a lot of that offense does come on the power play as the Stars have the league’s fifth-best conversation rate at 25.5 percent. At 5-on-5, the Stars are in the bottom third of the league in terms of goals per 60 (2.24) and bottom 10 in expected goals per 60 (2.33). The Stars scored three of their four goals on the PP in their 4-3 win over the Blackhawks back in December, so playing a disciplined game will likely be key for Chicago if they hope to win.

Unlike the Stars, the Blackhawks are neither coming off a win — they just lost 7-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night — nor are they fighting for a place in the playoffs — they haven’t been since they failed to fire the AHL coach at the helm last summer. The Blackhawks have been a better team since the coaching change, hovering around .500 under Derek King for the most part, but it’s still been a disappointing stretch as of late with a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games where they’ve been outscored 39 to 28.

As for Thursday’s game, the Blackhawks looked alright overall, but their slow starts are continuing to bite them. And yes, they may have been able to win if not for 22-year-old goaltender Arvid Söderblom’s shaky performance in net, but it was just his third NHL game of his career and the team in front also allowed him to face 36 shots. King pointedly acknowledged the lack of defensive support for the rookie netminder, especially in the first period.

Still, there were good points: three of the four Chicago goals scored were by players 24 or younger in Philipp Kurashev, Alex DeBrincat, and MacKenzie Entwistle; Ryan Carpenter scored his first goal in 69 games (nice); and Seth Jones looked good playing about 27 minutes and almost had a goal himself against his former team.

More youth will be served against the Stars with the return of 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel:

The Blackhawks will likely need to be better than just alright against the Stars, though. Having Marc-André Fleury in net will be a boost obviously, so cleaning it up a bit defensively while maintaining some offensive spark could definitely be the difference. Just because the playoffs are out of the question doesn’t mean the Blackhawks can’t end the season positively.

Elsewhere in the lineup, Henrik Borgstrom and Alec Regula are expected to skate with the trio of Brett Connolly, Josiah Slavin and Erik Gustafsson all on their way to the press box.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars

46.42% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.71% (19th)

45.88% (27th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.67% (18th)

2.42 (30th) — Goals per game — 2.96 (16th)

3.38 (24th) — Goals against per game — 3.00 (20th)

48.8% (19th) — Faceoffs — 54.6% (2nd)

20.1% (16th) — Power play — 25.5% (5th)

74.5% (28th) — Penalty kill — 77.8% (21st)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hagel — Reichel — Kane

DeBrincat — Dach — Strome(?)

Kubalik — Borgstrom — Lafferty

Entwistle(?) — Carpenter — Kurashev

de Haan — S. Jones

C. Jones — Murphy

McCabe — Regula

Fleury

Soderblom

Stars

Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski

Benn — Seguin — Gurianov

Raffl — Glendening — Kiviranta

Kero — Peterson — Radulov

Suter — Heiskanen

Lindell — Klingberg

Harley — Hakanpaa

Oettinger

Holtby

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+