With the streaks broken, now the Dallas Stars have to return home and find their game again. On Wednesday the Stars had their six-game winning streak and eleven-game points streak broken as they lost 5-2 on the road to the Winnipeg Jets. It was yet another bad night for the Stars on the 2nd of a back-to-back set, and they didn’t look like the team that’s taken over first in the Pacific division. Now the Stars will try to bounce back as they start a key four-game homestand tonight by hosting the Chicago Blackhawks. Each of the four games will be against Western Conference teams competing for playoff positioning, and rebounding at home tonight could be key to Dallas having a “successful” homestand before they take to the road for four games. The Blackhawks might be below the Stars in the standings right now, but Chicago does own one more point than the Stars and if Dallas does not win the Pacific, Chicago could be one of the teams they are fighting for positioning with. The Blackhawks are coming in off a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis and they have won five of their last seven as they continue to attempt to cement themselves in the playoff picture in the West.
Both teams will be without players tonight for the key matchup. Sheldon Souray and Radek Dvorak are out again for the Stars, but the team did say they hope to have them back this coming week. Young Dman Philip Larsen did skate this morning and will try to go tonight, but if he can’t play then Jordie Benn will take his spot. The Blackhawks will be without their top center and captain Jonathan Toews as he continues to sit out with a concussion. Chicago is making due without him, but it is obvious they will need him back if they hope to make a deep playoff run. Steve Montador, Daniel Carcillo, and Sami Lepisto are all out as well while defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson is questionable for the contest. In net we should expect to see Kari Lehtonen and Corey Crawford.
The puck drops at 7:30PM central tonight from the American Airlines Center and the early word is that the game is close to selling-out. The fourth and final meeting between the two teams could be a playoff preview, as they would meet in the first round if the playoffs started today. The Stars won the first meeting on opening night and the last won in Chicago three weeks ago. Expect a playoff atmosphere tonight as the home games have greatly improved over the last month and the crowds continue to get bigger, and with that the Stars have been better. They are 4-0-1 in their last five home games and if they need to rely on Lehtonen, they know they can. He is 8-0-1 in his last nine games with two straight shutouts (and three overall in that stretch) and he’s averaging 1.29 goals-against. Don’t forget to show up early as the Stars will be wearing special green warm-up jerseys before the game for St. Patrick’s Day, and the jersey are being auctioned on the Stars’ website for the next couple of weeks after the game.
- The Blackhawks are great at home, but 14-18-3 on the road and they are prone to giving up goals on the road.
- The Stars are 20-12-3 at home overall.
- Chicago is top-ten in the league in goals for and shots for, meaning the Stars can’t give them extra chances tonight and they need to give Lehtonen help every time they can.