Apr 15, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) is defended by Dallas Stars left wing Eric Nystrom (24) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks open the first of their back-to-back weekend games, tonight, against the surging, new Central Division foe, Dallas Stars.
The Stars have won 3 straight games, all on the road, heading into tonight’s game against the Blackhawks. Dallas beat the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and the Boston Bruins, on their recently completed, perfect road trip, a not so easy task. The comforts of their home-ice will be much appreciated and a welcome sight, as they face a big test against the also surging, defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks. The Stars weren’t expected to be truly competitive, this season, but so far so good, in their quest to prove the experts wrong. The Stars are lead by budding NHL star, Jamie Benn and their big offseason acquisition, Tyler Seguin. Second year defenseman, Brendan Dillon, is having a very nice season, on the blueline, thus far.
Kari Lehtonen is one of the top goaltenders in all of the NHL, but doesn’t get nearly enough recognition, and once again he is off to a fantastic start to the season. The big issue with Lehtonen is his ability to stay healthy. If he can, the Stars may very well be for real, this season.
The Blackhawks have been playing quality hockey, pretty much all season, in most areas, and are no strangers to playing on back-to-back nights. This will be the Hawks’ 4th series of back-to-back games, as they have swept 2, and split the 1. They have won all of the first games of their back-to-back stretches, so far this season. This matchup against the surprisingly surging Stars, will be an interesting one, for the Hawks. Duncan Keith is off to a stellar start to the season, as he has remarkably picked up his point production, from the blueline. Patrick Kane continues to pile up points at the pace that’s expected of him, with Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp chipping in their respetive fair shares also.
Outside of the usual suspects, Brandon Pirri is doing a nice job solidifying himself as the Hawks’ number 2 center. In net, Corey Crawford has taken a big-step forward, into the echelons of a work-horse goaltender, for the Hawks. Crawford has evolved into a player that the Hawks depend on, rather than one that they just hope plays adequately enough to keep them in games. Corey figures to get the start in Dallas, and it will be interesting to see what Coach Q does in Sunday’s game, in net, since Nikolai Khabibulin has struggled mightily, in his 3 appearances, this season.
Like every team that plays the Blackhawks, this season, this game will be a great test to a Stars team that is off to a great start, while this game will be another opportunity for the Hawks to show an up and coming team who’s still the top-dog, in the Central Division, as well as the NHL. It should be a good game.