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My Kind of Town: Blackhawks vs. Stars Preview

Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Good news: the Chicago Blackhawks are thankfully back at the United Center, where they at least have a chance of winning, considering they’re just lost their 15th consecutive road game on Thursday. Bad news: they’re facing a legit Stanley Cup contender in the Dallas Stars, a team the Blackhawks have already lost against twice to this season while being outscored 13-5.

One of those previous games between Chicago and Dallas was a close 5-4 affair that required overtime for the Stars to win while the second was an embarrassing 8-1 blowout where the Blackhawks looked gassed the entire game. Which performance will the Blackhawks put up tonight?

Now, the Stars haven’t been as dominant since the Blackhawks last saw them in action. In December, they faced the Blackahwks coming in on a six-game winning streak and were first in the Central Division. Now, they’ve lost four of their last six and have slid to third in the divisional standings. Three of those losses were determined by one goal, but their latest was dropping a 6-3 match against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on Friday night. Nashville was able to keep most of the top players for Dallas from scoring — of their top-five producers, only Matt Duchene tallied a goal — and the Predators put 38 shots on goal against what’s arguably a top-10 defense.

Speaking of Duchene, his line is the only one that seemed to be clicking at a high level during this mini six-game slump for the Stars: they all have seven point in that span. Duchene has two goals and five assists, Mason Marchment has seven assists, and Tyler Seguin has five goals and two assists. Jason Robertson isn’t too far behind them with six points (4 G, 2 A), but a majority of those points came on the power play or on an empty-net goal. Esa Lindell has contributed four assists from the blue line, predominantly at 5-on-5.

A likely major factor in the Stars recent losses is the fact that they were without No. 1 defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who got got hurt in a collision with his own goalie Scott Wedgewood during the Colorado Avalanche game last Thursday. He was ruled as week-to-week and will not play against the Blackhawks.

Stars’ lines will likely be the same as against the Predators from Friday night. Since Jake Oettinger played in that game against Nashville, Wedgewood is expected to be in net against Chicago. He was in net for both previous games against the Blackhawks, and put up a .862 save percentage on 29 shots and a .958 save percentage on 25 shots, respectively, in each game.

The Blackhawks are coming off a heartbreaking loss when they allowed two goals in the final minutes of regulation to fall 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. Chicago battled hard but allowed some sloppy defensive play in the waning minutes to do them in. Winnipeg is also just one of the top teams in the league that know when to turn on the jets (pardon the pun) when needed to win games, considering that was their eighth consecutive victory to continue to secure their top-seed standing in the Western Conference. Connor Murphy scored the Blackhawks lone goal, youngsters Lukas Reichel and Cole Guttman picked up assists, and Petr Mrazek had another great showing with a .929 save percentage on 28 shots.

The Blackhawks are expected to run similar lines as the Jets game, though the pairings will have a bit of a shuffle as Seth Jones (shoulder) makes his return after 15 games and will play with Alex Vlasic. Jarred Tinordi will be scratched: he skated in Connor Murphy’s place at Friday’s practice as the latter was taking a maintenance day. Isaak Phillips will draw back in as well, per the morning skate.

Petr Mrazek will be in net.

Newly extended Nick Foligno spoke after the morning skate on Saturday about an assortment of topics, but the most interesting response was to a question about why he, a player who’d never been on a team that’s really competed for the Stanley Cup, signed again with a team in the early stages of a rebuild:

He also gave a brief update on Connor Bedard after practice as well — the kid seems in good spirits and raring to go even after surgery, and gave his own thoughts on the Brendan Smith hit that took Bedard out, why he fought Smith despite thinking it was a clean hit, and his own timeline for return from his broken finger.

Tale of the Tape

Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars

44.01 (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 52.93% (7th)

41.95% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 55.03% (4th)

2.29 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.66 (2nd)

3.67 (29th) — Goals against per game — 3.10 (16th)

44.8% (32nd) — Faceoffs — 53.8% (4th)

13.0% (29th) — Power play — 23.3% (11th)

75.6% (27th) — Penalty kill — 85.0% (4th)

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+

Radio: WGN 720

Talking Points