Stars, Blackhawks battle in key division game
  • Marc Staal (china, u) May 14
     If ever a midseason game could be
    considered crucial, the Thursday contest between the Dallas Stars and Chicago
    Blackhawks at American Airlines Center qualifies. The Minnesota Wild, the Stars
    and the Blackhawks are tied for fourth in the Central Division and the first
    Western Conference wild-card spot, each with 39 points. Both Dallas and Chicago
    have experienced ups and downs in recent weeks, though the Blackhawks have been
    playing particularly well lately, winning five straight heading into Thursday.
    The surge immediately followed a five-game losing streak.Article continues below
    ... Even though things are going well for the team, Chicago may have to scratch
    veteran forward Patrick Sharp who played for Dallas the last two seasons in an
    effort to interject more offense. We have some guys who have been out of the
    lineup for games now, and you dont want them sitting too long, Blackhawks coach
    Joel Quenneville said. Up front, maybe there are guys we can move in and out and
    keep everyone going. The Stars have lost three straight, but they earned points
    in each of the past two games after falling in overtime against the Philadelphia
    Flyers and the Washington Capitals. Dallas looked at the home loss against
    Washington on Tuesday as a blown opportunity
    The Stars took a 3-2 lead late on a goal by Alexander Radulov, but they allowed
    a game-tying goal 41 seconds later. The ensuing OT defeat was so frustrating to
    Stars coach Ken Hitchcock that his postgame press conference only lasted 19
    After practice on Wednesday, Hitchcock was ready to look past the loss. Were
    moved on to Chicago, so were ready for Chicago, Hitchcock said. I said my piece
    yesterday, no coach likes to see that next shift after a goal, but weve moved on
    to Chicago. For Hitchcock, a victory Thursday would mark a milestone. With 799
    career wins, Hitchcock is on the verge of becoming the third coach in NHL
    history to reach 800. Scotty Bowman holds the all-time record with 1,244 wins,
    while Quenneville is second with 868 wins. Hitchcock doesnt like to stew on
    milestones. Earlier this year when he passed Al Arbour for third all-time, he
    tried to speak around the moment and didnt want the spotlight. The bigger
    concerns for the coach is getting Dallas back into a solidified playoff
    position. The Stars are in the midst of playing nine of 10 games at home and
    five straight against division opponents. This is a big stretch for us,
    Hitchcock said. Weve had good moments, but we havent reached that spot where we
    are playing consistently and getting production from our top lines. Dallas had
    been hopeful that Marc Methot would be back soon from a knee injury, but because
    of a couple of setbacks with timing, he will not play before the NHL three-day
    Christmas break. Jan Rutta and Cody Franson have both returned from injuries for
    Chicago and could be back in the lineup on Thursday. Ben Bishop will start in
    goal for Dallas,
    while Corey Crawford likely will be the starting goalie for Chicago.

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