Stars try to continue win streak in rematch with Blackhawks
DALLAS — On Thursday night, the Dallas Stars edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime at United Center. And on Saturday evening at American Airlines Center, Dallas will hope for a similar result in the rematch.
The Stars (14-10-1, 29 points) have won three straight and are 9-2-0 at home, good signs for a team that was struggling not long ago.
“I just think you build your game through adversity,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said after the win in Chicago. “You got to go through tough times. You don’t build it through the good times, you build it through the tough times. I knew we were going to come to this part of our game two weeks ago because we had really good play, but we stumbled and we started to learn.”
“We just kept adding more and more minutes to our game and that’s what we’re going to have to do. We played 55 good minutes today (Thursday), which is a good sign and we competed, competed like heck and we deserved to win.”
Dallas clinched the road victory Thursday when young center Mattias Janmark scored his second goal of the game in the extra frame.
Janmark, who missed last season with a knee injury, now has 13 points (seven assists) in 25 games this season.
“He’s just a good player,” Hitchcock said of Janmark. “When you’re a smart, competitive player like he is, he helps you in so many veins and he’s very strong. For a small guy, he’s really, really strong on the puck.”
Thursday’s win in Chicago was just Dallas’ second victory within the Central Division this season, putting the Stars at 2-6 in divisional games.
And Saturday’s rematch presents another great opportunity to improve that division record once again.
“I think we’re finding a way to win games the right way now, both home and away,” Janmark said. “We know playing these guys, these are big games. Chicago is an extra big game ever since I got here. We know we got a lot of division games coming up, so every win in the division is huge.”
Chicago (12-9-4, 28 points), on the other hand, heads into Saturday’s rematch on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1).
And on Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks got additional bad news when goaltender Corey Crawford, who stopped 31 of 35 shots in Thursday’s loss against Dallas, had to be placed on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury.
The Blackhawks recalled Jean-Francois Berube, who is 6-6-0 with a 2.56 goals-against-average and .913 save percentage in 12 games with Rockford, from the AHL on Friday morning.
Berube will back up Anton Forsberg, who becomes Chicago’s de-factor starter with Crawford out.
In Thursday’s loss, Chicago drew seven penalties, but the Blackhawks’ power play only converted one of those opportunities.
And if the Blackhawks are to end their short losing streak and rebound against the Stars on Saturday, that unit will need to be much more effective.
“Power play wasn’t very good tonight (Thursday),” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after Thursday’s overtime loss to Dallas. “We scored one, but we didn’t generate enough when we were out there. We lost momentum in the game with our power play tonight.”
Quenneville did notice a marked difference in how the Stars are playing this season, their first under Ken Hitchcock, who preaches more of a defense-focused and not as much of a high-tempo, end-to-end track meet type of game like previous Dallas coach Lindy Ruff did.
“I think they have real purpose in their game, a lot of structure and then discipline. There’s purpose there. You got to play a patient game,” Quenneville said.
One bright spot for Chicago this season has been the consistent play of rookie forward Alex DeBrincat, who has 19 points (11 assists), second only to team leader Patrick Kane’s 27 points.
“Yeah, (DeBrincat) just finds ways to get chances, get the puck,” Kane said after Thursday’s loss in Chicago. “He’s got a sneaky little shot where he places it in the right area and finds ways to score goals. He’s been great, a pleasant surprise.”