NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, February 23rd (All times Eastern)
Dallas Stars (30-26-4) at Chicago Blackhawks (33-21-7), 8:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Blackhawks shook off the absence of captain Jonathan Toews on Tuesday to record a tight victory over the NHL's top team. No longer do they look like a team that nearly torpedoed their season at the start of the month.
Chicago tries to match its longest winning streak of the season this evening as it hosts the Dallas Stars, but will do so minus Toews again.
The Blackhawks looked like a team that may play their way out of a postseason spot with a nine-game losing streak from Jan. 21-Feb. 14. Chicago, though, has given up just five goals while rebounding with four straight wins, getting to within three points of Nashville for the fifth spot in the Western Conference.
The club also sits 11 points back of the Red Wings for the top spot in the conference and Central Division after snapping Detroit's six-game winning streak with Tuesday's 2-1 home victory. Corey Crawford helped take the pressure off the offense with 31 saves, helping Chicago log its longest winning streak since a season-high five-game run from Dec. 8-18.
"Corey was rock solid," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville of his goaltender. "I thought he was big, strong, he controlled rebounds. They put a lot of bodies and traffic in front, they test you on almost every shift and I thought he was excellent."
Jimmy Hayes scored versus Detroit and also set up Marcus Kruger's third-period winner. Toews sat out the game with an upper-body injury that has him day-to- day and will also hold him out of tonight's contest. Toews leads Chicago with 29 goals and is second with 57 points.
Despite the loss of Toews, winger Patrick Sharp said the locker room was still positive and upbeat.
"That's the nature of hockey, 82 games you're going to play without some players on any given night. Losing (Toews) was big, but I thought as a team we rallied around each other and I think we all stepped up," said Sharp.
The Stars also stepped up on Tuesday and avoided a third loss in a row with a 3-0 victory over the Canadiens. Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves for his second shutout of the season and 19th of his career.
Ryan Garbutt potted his first NHL goal and Mike Ribeiro and Tom Wandell added goals. Ribeiro has eight points in his past eight games for a Stars club that had lost five of six but still sits two points back of a playoff spot.
"We were desperate, but I think we had a better start to the game," said Lehtonen, who stopped 14 shots in the second period. "In the first, we were playing very well and that set the tone. It kept their fans quiet and that helped a lot."
Dallas played a third straight game with Jamie Benn because of a leg laceration, while Sheldon Souray has sat out the past seven due to a foot injury. Benn is doubtful for tonight, but Souray is expected to return.
Jake Dowell, meanwhile, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of an upper-body issue, with fellow forward Matt Fraser being recalled from the minors.
Dallas had won four straight over the Blackhawks before dropping a 5-2 decision in Chicago on Oct. 8 to split a home-and-home series. It was the Blackhawks' eighth victory over the Stars in the past 11 encounters in Chicago.
02/23 10:34:00 ET