After a solid start to the campaign, the Chicago Blackhawks have been unable to sustain any success since the calendar turned to 2015.
Following their fourth January loss, the Blackhawks will try to right the ship Sunday by beating the Dallas Stars for the fourth time this season.
Chicago (28-14-2) fell 4-2 to Winnipeg on Friday and has now alternated wins and losses over seven games starting with a defeat at Washington in the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. The up-and-down stretch also includes losses to Colorado and lowly Edmonton.
A major issue for the Blackhawks has been an inconsistent offense which has netted 13 goals in the three victories but just six in the four losses.
"If we were winning at that other rate, we’d be very happy. We’d be at the top of the heap," coach Joel Quenneville told Chicago’s official website. "Every team, every year, you’re always going to have some stretches where you’re ordinary."
Corey Crawford has gone 3-3-0 over his last six games and will make his third consecutive start Sunday. He ranks near the top of the league with a 2.18 goals-against average and has been in net for all three victories over the Stars this season.
Dallas (20-17-7) picked up a 5-4 victory over the Capitals on Saturday, but like the Blackhawks, has fared poorly since the start of the new year. The Stars have lost five of seven since Jan. 4, a slump which began with a 5-4 overtime loss in Chicago.
The current poor stretch followed an 8-1-0 surge that had Dallas within striking distance of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Stars could start regaining that contending status with their first road win since Dec. 27.
Tyler Seguin scored his league-leading 27th goal Saturday and Benn added his 13th. Seguin, however, has been unable to find the net against Chicago this season, recording only one assist in the three matchups.
"We need (Seguin and Jamie Benn) on the board on a consistent basis," coach Lindy Ruff said. "Tyler’s missed some unbelievable chances. But at the same time, that goal by Benn, because they’ve been few and far between, is important to get him going again."
Eric Cole, who scored against Washington for his second goal in three games, has been the Stars’ primary producer against Crawford. He had two goals in the Jan. 4 loss and has amassed five points in his last four meetings with Chicago dating to last season.
The Blackhawks can counter with Brandon Saad. The 22-year-old winger has five goals in his last seven games and has benefited greatly from playing alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, who have eight points apiece in that span.
Teuvo Teravainen could also provide a spark for Chicago after the highly touted rookie scored his first NHL goal Friday.
"It’s a nice feeling, of course," Teravainen said. "First goal. I’ve been waiting. It’s, of course, good to get the first one. I’m happy with that, but I’m not happy that we lost and we just couldn’t win this tight game."
Kari Lehtonen has started each of the three games against Chicago and has a lofty 4.19 GAA in those contests. After securing the win Saturday, he could cede the net to Anders Lindback, who is 2-7-0 with a 3.79 GAA in nine appearances this season.