Blackhawks-Stars Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks wouldn’t have qualified for last season’s

playoffs if not for the Dallas Stars’ season-ending defeat. Having

earned at least one point in six of their last seven games, the

Blackhawks are trying to make it back to the postseason on their

own despite Jonathan Toews’ lengthy absence.

Even with its captain healthy, Chicago has struggled against

Dallas lately and may face more trouble against a red-hot Stars

team seeking to bounce back from a rare regulation defeat Friday

night.

The Blackhawks (38-25-8) finished two points ahead of the Stars

in 2010-11 Western Conference standings thanks to Dallas’ 5-3 loss

in Minnesota on the season’s final day.

Chicago helped its chances in this season’s race and perhaps got

a big boost mentally with a 4-3 shootout win over league points

leader St. Louis on Tuesday.

Chicago trailed 3-1 after the first period, but Corey Crawford

stymied the Blues thereafter in relief of Ray Emery. He made 18

saves and stopped all three shooters in the extra session for his

first win since Feb. 21.

“I just had to make sure I had a key save at a certain time in

the game,” Crawford said. “I was hungry. … That’s a huge two

points for us.”

That game was the Blackhawks’ 11th in a row without Toews, who

is suffering from an upper-body injury believed to be a

concussion.

Toews has resumed practicing but hasn’t been cleared for

contact. Chicago is 6-4-1 in his absence and 5-1-1 over its last

seven.

The Blackhawks’ 84 points are one more than Dallas (39-27-5),

but the Stars have a better chance to finish higher in the

standings because they’re challenging for their first Pacific

Division title since 2005-06.

Dallas surged into contention for that crown with a 10-0-1 run

but had trouble with a well-rested Winnipeg during a 5-2 defeat

Wednesday. The Stars were playing the second of back-to-back games,

while the Jets had the benefit of four days off.

After shutting out consecutive opponents, Dallas gave up all

five goals in the first 36:12 as its season-high, six-game win

streak came to an end.

“We beat ourselves. We didn’t play well. We turned pucks over

way too easy,” defenseman Stephane Robidas told the team’s website.

“We didn’t play a simple game like we’ve been doing in the past 11,

12 games. We just got to go back to basics.”

The Blackhawks will have had one more day of rest than the Stars

heading into Friday’s game, but they’ve lost three straight in

Dallas. Chicago fell 2-1 at the American Airlines Center in the

season opener Oct. 7 but rebounded for a 5-2 home win the following

night.

Dallas had a 3-1 win at Chicago on Feb. 23 during its 11-game

point streak and has won five of six in the series. Mike Ribeiro

has led the way with seven points during those six games and Steve

Ott has a team-best four goals.

Ott also has a combined eight over his last 10 matchups, but he

hasn’t scored since last month’s win in Chicago, a span of nine

games.

Ott will get his chance to try to end that drought against

Crawford, who is 2-4-0 with a 3.03 goals-against average in six

career starts against Dallas.

Stars top goaltender Kari Lehtonen has won four straight over

the Blackhawks but made his only start against them this season

Oct. 7.