Stars, Blackhawks both hope to build off wins

DALLAS — On Thursday night at American Airlines Center, the Central Division rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars will renew.

Chicago (11-19-6) occupies the Central cellar, but thanks to a 2-1 win against suddenly struggling Nashville Tuesday at United Center, the Blackhawks at least head into their first meeting of the season with the Stars on a positive note.

The Blackhawks are 4-12-2 on the road and last won away from home November 24 at Florida, a 5-4 overtime victory. Chicago has lost its last four road games, but two of those defeats have been by one goal.

Wednesday’s win against the reigning Western Conference champion Predators was just Chicago’s second win in its past 12 games.

“Really liked the response of the team,” Blackhawks interim coach Jeremy Colliton said postgame on Tuesday. “We had a good start. Second period was excellent. Third period, obviously they got a little push against us. Would have liked to spend a little more time in their end. You don’t want to put yourself under so much pressure you’re at the mercy of the bounce, but credit to the guys, they played really hard. And when we do that, we’re really competitive.”

Longtime Chicago captain Jonathan Toews needs just three assists to reach 400 helpers for his career.

On Wednesday morning, the Blackhawks recalled forward Luke Johnson from AHL Rockford. Johnson had four goals and seven points with in 10 games with Rockford.

Chicago also placed veteran forward Marcus Kruger on injured reserve with a concussion, which was revealed by Colliton after the win against Nashville.

Dallas (17-14-3) was 4-0-0 against Chicago last season, and on Tuesday the Stars snapped their four-game losing streak with a 2-0 shutout of Calgary.

The Stars are now 11-3-1 at home and will get a nice boost from the return of defenseman John Klingberg, who last played November 8 against San Jose.

And Klingberg, a 2018 NHL All-Star who missed the past 18 games with a hand injury that required surgery, is excited about returning to the ice on Thursday.

“My first year, I had four games (I missed) with a shoulder. My second year, I had six games with a groin,” Klingberg said after practice Wednesday. “Six weeks, that’s a long time for me (to be out). I’ve been skating the last two weeks, though, which helps. My conditioning I feel is really good. It’s going to be for me like starting the season over.”

To make room for Klingberg on the active roster, Dallas sent rookie defenseman Joel Hanley, who had appeared in 16 NHL games, to AHL Texas.

According to Stars first-year coach Jim Montgomery after practice on Wednesday, Klingberg will be paired with Esa Lindell against Chicago and also will see minutes with the power play.

Dallas has gone 8-9-1 without Klingberg on the ice.

“He’s really important. We’ve been .500 since he’s been out and we’re not a .500 team when he’s in, so that speaks to his importance to our team,” Montgomery said.