The Chicago Blackhawks will try to snap a three-game winless streak when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at the United Center.
Chicago (24-21-8) has only two wins in its past nine contests and is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 2007-08 campaign. The Blackhawks are 12-11-3 on home ice and are seven points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 29 games remaining in the regular season.
“This season has offered some (different) challenges as opposed to past years,” Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said to the Chicago Tribune. “You look at our record, and where we’re at, as a player looking yourself in the mirror, you can’t say it has been good enough. It hasn’t been good enough.”
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Dallas (31-19-4) is riding a three-game win streak and knows it cannot afford a downturn in a crowded playoff race. The Stars hold the top wild-card spot with 66 points in 54 games, and their plus-27 goal differential is fourth-best in the conference.
In the past three contests, Dallas has outscored opponents 12-3. The Stars are 12-11-3 on the road this season.
Veteran goaltender Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in net for the Stars. Lehtonen, 34, is 9-5-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 17 games this season. In 26 career appearances against the Blackhawks, he is 10-9-6 with a 2.84 GAGA and .914 save percentage.
Lehtonen and teammate Ben Bishop have helped Dallas to limit opponents to 1.8 goals per game in the past 10 outings.
“The numbers are really good because of the goalies,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said to the Dallas Morning News. “They’ve made big saves, and they’ve made big saves at the right time. And that’s helped us manage the game.”
An aggressive defense in front of the net also has helped the Stars’ cause.
“Our defense has played a pretty solid game,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said to the Morning News. “They are not the flashiest bunch, but they get the job done. It’s what we do as a group out there in our defensive zone. The attention to the little details has put us in a good spot in our goals against.”
The Blackhawks will counter with either Anton Forsberg or Jeff Glass, who have split time in net while Corey Crawford is out because of an upper-body injury. Crawford has not played since Dec. 23 but reportedly is getting closer to returning.
Forsberg is 5-8-3 with a 2.94 GAA and .911 save percentage in 19 games this season. Glass has posted similar numbers with a 3-4-3 record, a 3.13 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 11 contests.
In one appearance against the Stars, Forsberg is 0-0-1 with a 1.85 GAA and .943 save percentage. Glass has not faced Dallas.
This marks the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the teams. Dallas won each of the first three games, two of which went to overtime and one of which went to a shootout round.