BLACKHAWKS (21-6-5) at STARS (14-9-5)
TV: CSN-CH, FS-SW
Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Dallas 5-2-3
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks have won two of the first three games in the season series against the Dallas Stars, with two games left. This will be the last regular-season meeting at American Airlines Center in Dallas, where the Blackhawks have won twice. Dallas won the most recent game, Dec. 3 at United Center, starting a three-game winless skid for the Blackhawks.
Big story: They haven't met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the Stars were known as the Minnesota North Stars, but the intensity is heating up now that they're Central Division foes. The physical play has increased with each game and might provide another subtext to this game.
"That's the great thing about hockey," Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said. "You get to play those division games a lot and the hatred builds throughout the year. And if we meet them in the playoffs, it [might be] a different story."
Blackhawks: Chicago snapped its three-game skid with a 6-2 victory Sunday against the visiting Florida Panthers. The Blackhawks scored on three of four power plays and went 5-for-5 killing penalties. Chicago entered the week 29th in the NHL in penalty-killing success rate (73.3 percent), but gained confidence against the Panthers.
The bad news happened when goalie Corey Crawford left late in the first period with a lower-body injury. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday that Crawford is expected to miss three weeks. Rookie backup Antti Raanta (3-0-1, 2.16 goals-against average) will be the starter until Crawford or Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) returns. Chicago recalled Kent Simpson from their American Hockey League affiliate Monday to serve as Raanta's backup.
"[Raanta] has done a good job," Quenneville said. "He's played some games now. We'll get to see him a little bit more and he's doing what we want him to do."
Stars: Since beating the Blackhawks the Stars have earned three points in the past two games, including a 5-1 defeat of the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday at home. Tyler Seguin had a natural hat trick in the second period and assisted on a goal by Valeri Nichushkin, who had assisted on all three of Seguin's goals.
Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said he likes putting Nichushkin with Seguin and Jamie Benn at home and shifts the rookie to a lower line for road games.
"There's some matchups I like [at home] when I put Val there and on the road there's sometimes a different look," Ruff said. "But I'd like to try and keep that [line] intact. Val's play continues to grow and for me that's real important. He made some really nice plays on those goals and physically he's been winning some battles, which is important."
Who's hot: Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has at least a point in five straight games for and has five goals and 15 points in the past 10 games. … Nichushkin has two goals and seven points in the past three games.
Injury report: Besides their two injured goalies, the Blackhawks are missing forward Bryan Bickell (knee). … Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (leg), defenseman Trevor Daley (high ankle sprain), forward Vernon Fiddler (upper body) and defenseman Aaron Rome (lower body) are sidelined for the Stars.
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