NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, April 6th (All times eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (49-22-7) at Dallas Stars (35-30-14), 8:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Having wrapped up their first division title in 17 years, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to stay in the hunt for the Western Conference's top seed this evening when they visit the Dallas Stars and American Airlines Center.
The Blackhawks clinched the Central Division on Sunday before they even hit the ice because of the Red Wings' loss earlier in the day to the Flyers. Chicago then celebrated with a 4-1 victory over Calgary to move within two points of top-seeded San Jose with three games left to play and a game in hand. The Sharks visit the Flames tonight.
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist for Chicago, which claimed its first division title since it was Norris Division champs in 1992-93. Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Tomas Kopecky all added goals and Antti Niemi made 25 saves in helping the Blackhawks match a club single-season record with 49 wins that was first set in 1970-71 and later matched in 1990-91.
"This team has turned around ever since my first year, and it's just been a long time coming," Kane said of the division title. "You just look...I was four years old the last time [the Blackhawks] won the division. So it's been a long time coming, and obviously for Blackhawks fans. It's a good accomplishment, but it's not really the accomplishment you want. I think the one you want is the [Stanley Cup] at the end of the year."
Chicago is building momentum as it gets closer to the postseason. The club has won three straight for the first time since a four-game win streak from Feb. 6-14 and is 21-14-4 on the road this year. It was 2-5-2 in its previous nine before this win streak.
The Blackhawks won all four meetings with the Stars last season, but dropped the first two matchups with them in 2009-10 before a 4-3 shootout win at home on Feb. 9. Kane scored twice in regulation and Kris Versteeg had the lone shootout tally to give Chicago its seventh win in its last 11 in the series.
The Stars, though, have won 11 of the last 15 in the series played in Dallas and will try for their first series win over the Blackhawks since 2005-06.
That is all they have to shoot for in this one, as they dropped a 2-1 decision in St. Louis on Saturday and were then officially eliminated from playoff contention the following day when the Avalanche bested the Sharks.
Brenden Morrow scored the lone goal and Kari Lehtonen stopped 21 shots for the Stars, who failed yet again to win three games in a row for the first time this season.
"That game could have went either way [Saturday] but it went the other way," said Dallas head coach Marc Crawford. "We just got to keep plugging away here and get some wins."
Dallas will miss the postseason for a second year in a row following five straight trips and has three games remaining this season. The Stars host the Ducks on Thursday before visiting the Wild two days later.
04/06 10:50:14 ET