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There is Nothing Left to Lose: Blackhawks vs. Stars Preview

Can’t we just fast forward to the draft lottery?

NHL: APR 10 Stars at Blackhawks Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A team not expected to accomplish much for the rest of this season is at the United Center on Thursday night.

And so are the Chicago Blackhawks!

Anyway, it’s the Dallas Stars as the Blackhawks’ opponent for this Central Division clash, with the Stars entering this game on the tail-end of a back-to-back after beating the Arizona Coyotes at home on Wednesday night.

Dallas remains atop the Central Division heading into this game but it’s been doing its damnedest to ruin that since the calendar turned to 2023. Dallas has won just nine of 23 this year, with its biggest bugaboo coming in overtime, with the Stars losing six games in the extra session and another via the shootout, rounding out its 9-7-7 record in that span. Dallas also lost consecutive games against the basement-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets and their dungeon roommate — these Blackhawks — just a few weeks ago, continuing its slide. The Stars are three points ahead of the second-place Wild, but the surging Avalanche sit in third, just four points behind and with two games in hand. Home ice advantage is far from assured for the former North Stars.

The only reinforcement to arrive via trade — so far — is forward Evgenii Dadonov, acquired for former Stars first-round pick Denis Gurianov. Though Dadonov may provide solid contribution in the bottom-six, he’s far from the type of player who’ll kickstart a run to the Cup in March. There probably aren’t many moves left for the Stars, either, after sending their 2023 first-round pick to the New York Rangers last September for young defenseman Nils Lundkvist. Dallas has some offensive firepower in rising young phenom Jason Robertson (35 G, 38 A) hockey middle-ager Roope Hintz (25 G, 27 A) and veterans like Jamie Benn (24 G, 29 A) and Joe Pavelski (14 G, 37 A). It’s a bit surprising to see Tyler Seguin down at sixth on the team in points with just 37 (15 G, 22 A) in 60 games, although his production has been trending down for a few seasons. The primary offensive threat remains a strong one in Miro Heiskanen, who’s already at a career-high with 42 points (7 G, 35 A) this season.

Jake Oettinger is having another excellent season in the Stars’ crease and the story of this team’s postseason could be that it advances as far as Oettinger can carry them. With a 24-8-10 record, .923 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average, that could be a decent hike — especially in the Western Conference, which has not experienced the trade deadline arms race that the East has. But Oettinger had a sparking .954 SV% and 1.81 last postseason and the Stars still went home at the end of the first round. So there’s that. Oettinger played on Wednesday against Arizona, though, so expect backup Scott Wedgewood (7-8-3, .914 SV%, 2.92 GAA) to get the nod for this game.

As for the Blackhawks?

just keep everyone healthy in case there are more trades to be made by Friday’s deadline.

Let’s go Hawks or whatever.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars

43.21% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.26% (12th)

41.31% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.63% (13th)

2.47 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.20 (14th)

3.58 (28th) — Goals against per game — 2.60 (3rd)

54.5% (3rd) — Faceoffs — 54.8% (1st)

17.8% (27th) — Power play — 22.5% (12th)

76.6% (21st) — Penalty kill — 83.2% (4th)

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720