NHL on NBCSN: Can battered, slumping Stars rise above Blackhawks?
NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the team’s website that Tyler Seguin (concussion-like symptoms) might only end up missing a couple days. Still, in the likely event that he’s not available tonight, he will be sorely missed.
Dallas is 1-2-2 in its last five games and the Chicago Blackhawks are just about the last team a battered and slumping squad wants to face.
Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $1,000. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.
The Blackhawks have shown no signs of fatigue after capturing the Stanley Cup. In fact they lead the league with a 20-4-4 record and are the hottest team right now with six straight victories on the road.
Everything seems to be clicking for the Blackhawks right now, from 24-year-old rookie goaltender Antti Raanta to Duncan Keith, who led all defensemen in points last month with 16 in 15 games. On top of that, they had five forwards that found the back of the net at least five times in November. The Stars only had one guy that could say the same, and he’s the one in their sickbay.
That puts more pressure on Jamie Benn to carry a Stars offense that has been middle-of-the-road this season. The problem is that Benn has been cold during Dallas’ recent five-game slump, with just an assist and minus-four rating.
Even still, Dallas can’t be overlooked. Chicago has beaten the Stars twice this season, but in their last contest on Friday, Dallas held on for 11 shootout rounds before finally conceding defeat.
The key is Kari Lehtonen, who is arguably one of the most underrated goaltenders in the NHL. When he’s at his best, the Stars have a fighting chance regardless of their opponent or even the availability of their top sniper.
The Stars will also have plenty of motivation, given that they’re already six points out of a playoff spot. They know if they continue to slip the standings, the odds of them staging a comeback in the highly competitive Western Conference will start to become very daunting.
Sometimes the difference between a playoff squad and a lottery team is how the players respond when one of their best is sidelined. So perhaps tonight’s game will be telling.