CHICAGO — If the Chicago Blackhawks are to extend their current winning streak by sweeping a weekend home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars, they'll need end a skid against their Central Division rivals at the United Center.
Chicago goes for its sixth win in a row Sunday evening when it meets Dallas for the second time in as many days.
The Blackhawks (8-3-1) stretched their streak to five games with a 3-2 win over the Stars on Saturday night.
“I don't think anyone realizes we're on a little streak like that,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We're just focusing on trying to improve every single day.”
However, Chicago has been outscored 16-7 while dropping three in a row — all in regulation — on the West Side against Dallas. Chicago hasn't lost four straight at home to the Stars since Oct. 13, 1996-Oct. 24, 1997.
Chicago got goals Saturday from Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane, who also had an assist, and 31 saves from Corey Crawford.
Kane, the first U.S.-born Hart Trophy winner, has registered points in six of his last seven games, totaling three goals and six assists. He also believes the club can do more.
“I thought tonight was a little bit better of a game, all-around for us, and we can still can improve,” Kane told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It's good we're winning these games, knowing we can be better.”
Chicago has scored 18 goals during its winning streak, but as impressive as that might be, there might not be a goaltender in the league playing better right now than Crawford. After yielding 13 goals while going 1-3-1 in his first four games this season, Crawford has given up just seven goals in six games, posting a record of 5-0-1.
However, Crawford will have something to prove against the Stars. He has lost his last two home starts against Dallas, playing just 78 minutes and posting a 6.90 goals-against average with a .824 save percentage.
Brett Richie and Curtis McKenzie scored first-period goals Saturday for the Stars, who failed again to post consecutive wins for the first time this season, and dropped to 0-2-1 in their last three games.
Dallas is 1-3-1 on the road and has surrendered at least one power-play goal in each of five road games this season. Chicago, meanwhile, has killed off 12 straight short-handed situations in the last four games.
“They've got a good team, and we have to handle that a little,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News.
Injuries to key players have contributed to the slow start by Dallas (4-5-2).
Patrick Sharp, a former fan favorite who played nine-plus seasons for Chicago, is on injured reserve with concussion-like symptoms. Also on injured reserve are Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee) and Cody Eakin (knee).
And the list grew Sunday. Jiri Hudler, who had been on IR with an illness earlier in the season, was moved back to the list on Sunday morning.
“No good news,” Ruff said. “Still struggling with whatever type of virus he has.”
Jason Spezza, who has four goals in nine games so far, left after the second period with an upper body injury. Ruff said after the game that Spezza will “miss some time.”
Former Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi made 29 saves Saturday, but Kari Lethonen might get the start in net for this game. Lehtonen has surrendered 10 goals en route to an 0-2-1 record in his last three starts overall, but only seven shots have gotten past him while winning his last three starts in Chicago.
Chicago right winger Marian Hossa, who scored his 500th NHL goal on Oct. 18, is two points shy of 1,100 for his career. Hossa ranks fourth among active players in points behind Jaromir Jagr, Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla.