The Stars have been faced with adversity during the most important time of the regular season: the stretch run.
Patrick Sharp and John Klingberg each missed two weeks around the same time due to injuries. Same with Jordie Benn, who returned Tuesday after missing three weeks with an injury. Kris Russell, the defenseman they acquired at the trade deadline, was "50/50" heading into the game, but decided it'd be best to play it safe.
Most importantly, Tyler Seguin was added to the injury list last week.
But it hasn't fazed them. In fact, the Stars have seemingly gotten better because of it.
Two days after the superstar center went down with an Achilles injury that will sideline him for the rest of the regular season, the Stars responded by shutting out the New York Islanders 3-0 and routing the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks 6-2 at the United Center on Tuesday night.
It took some great play by goaltender Kari Lehtonen, but it was also a product of all four lines stepping up in Seguin's absence.
"We're playing some of our best hockey right now, and it's through the depth of the lineup," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. "We've got secondary scoring. There's a lot of good things; special teams, our power play got us a big goal, our goalie made some big saves at important times. There's a lot of things that allow you to win a game."
The Stars struck first when Colton Sceviour banked a shot off Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling's stick from behind the net. Just 25 seconds later, on the same shift, Vernon Fiddler extended the lead after burying one past Darling, who lost sight of it as did the sold-out crowd of 22,034.
Patrick Eaves, who netted a hat trick the last time Dallas played in Chicago on Feb. 11, made it a 3-0 lead on the power play, pouring more salt on the wound for the Blackhawks.
With 1:32 remaining in the period, the Blackhawks were awarded a power play and a chance to stop the bleeding. But it was Fiddler who found the back of the net for the second time in the period scoring a shorthanded goal to give the Stars a commanding 4-0 lead entering the first period.
It's the fourth time this season the Stars have built a 4-0 cushion against the Blackhawks, who are now closer to a wild-card spot than the top seed in the Central Division.
"We know it's a tough building to play in," Fiddler said. "It's one of those buildings where you better be ready to go or you're going to get it handed to you, and I think we came out really prepared and stuck to the game plan and capitalized on our opportunities."
Michael Leighton, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League after Corey Crawford went down with an upper-body injury, replaced Darling in net and stopped 16 of 17 in relief. His first save was a nice one, which drew loud sarcastic cheers. It was just the third time since the 2010 Stanley Cup Final with Philadelphia — remember that, Chicago? — that Leighton had appeared in an NHL game.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also went to the line blender once again, and it took a while, but it eventually paid off when Andrew Shaw pumped some life back into the building when he batted home his 13th goal of the season.
But it didn't last long, with Radek Faksa snapping home a shot past Leighton's left shoulder with 1:02 remaining in the second, effectively putting a stamp on the night.
"I thought it was a big goal by Faksa to come right back," Ruff said, "because I could sense a little bit of momentum and they were trying to turn up the heat, and they're very capable of doing that."
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The Blackhawks would get another one thanks to Richard Panik, but an empty-netter by Cody Eakin officially sealed it, giving the Stars a 6-2 win.
"They've taken it to us for a few years. They're a great hockey team," Fiddle said. "Their championships speak for themselves, they got a lot of winners and experience over there. It's obviously nice to be on the other side, but that doesn't give us a Stanley Cup in our dressing room. When playoff time comes, we know that they're going to be a better team.
"We just try to be our best every night and that's what we're focusing on, getting a little bit better every game before the playoffs start."
With the win, Dallas officially clinched a postseason berth, improving their record to 44-21-9, good for a Western Conference-best 97 points.
In the past, it would take the final few games for the Stars' postseason fate to be decided.
This time, the only thing they'll be sweating is whether they'll secure the top seed in the division and conference, earning home-ice advantage in the West.
"We talked about getting off to a good start this year," Ruff said. "I think the start made a world of difference, our home record has made a world of difference. We put ourselves in a position that allowed us to clinch this early. Clinching is really important, but now it's moving on and making sure our game's in the right place. We've been playing some good hockey.
"It's Step 1 in what we're trying to accomplish. To go on the road and beat this team to help clinch is a good accomplishment, but now we're off to our next goal."