The Chicago Blackhawks have followed up a five-game winless drought by winning a season-high five in a row, but that streak will be tested as they open a six-game road trip at the Dallas Stars on Thursday night. Chicago will be looking for some payback, having dropped both ends of a home-and-home against Dallas on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.
The Blackhawks’ hot stretch has coincided with the return of No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford, who has yielded seven goals during the winning streak after returning from a three-game injury absence. “I think everyone in here knows we can do it,” Crawford said. “We’ve got a dangerous offense and our D are playing great. It’s been fun hockey.” It’s hasn’t been fun hockey of late for the Stars, who dropped their third in a row overall (0-1-2) and at home with a 4-3 overtime loss to Washington on Tuesday. Dallas lost all five matchups to Chicago last season before squeezing out overtime and shootout victories over the Blackhawks at the turn of the month as part of a five-game winning streak.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSports Chicago, FSN Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (17-11-5): Joel Quenneville is dealing with a problem that most coaches would love to have -- a glut of talent among his blue line. Defensemen Jan Rutta and Cody Franson are both ready to return from injuries, but Jordan Oesterle and Michal Kempny have played so well in their absences that Quenneville plans to keep the youngsters in the lineup for Thursday’s game. “That’s the NHL,” Quenneville said. ”It speaks volumes to our depth and it’s a good, healthy situation to be in.”
ABOUT THE STARS (18-14-3): Dallas sent defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, which some interpreted as a sign that blue-liner Marc Methot was ready to return from a one-month absence, but coach Ken Hitchcock said Methot won’t be back until after the Christmas break. Goaltender Ben Bishop is winless in four starts (0-2-2) since posting back-to-back wins over Chicago but he will be in net Thursday. Radek Faksa scored in both earlier wins over the Blackhawks, but has two assists in nine games since.
1. Blackhawks F Patrick Kane has scored in three in a row and has four goals and three assists in a four-game point streak.
2. Chicago is 1-for-29 with the man advantage in December but the Stars have yielded nine power-play goals in eight games.
3. Dallas plays eight of its last nine games at home.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Stars 3