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At the Rink: Blackhawks at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- When the Chicago Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Saturday, they could reach several milestones.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is one victory away from reaching career win No. 750. Quenneville is 749-431-106 with 77 ties as an NHL coach and credits much of his success to being surrounded by great personnel during stints with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Blackhawks.

“I’ve been fortunate, been around real good teams,” Quenneville said. “Timing’s been fortunate in a lot of ways to work with great players, a lot of top teams, organizationally working with some great management people as well.”

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews needs one point to reach 500 for his career. Toews has 499 points (281 assists) in 554 games, and after the morning skate admitted he is well aware of how close he is to reaching that milestone.

“Yeah, I did (know),” Toews said. “Not going to lie, I’ve been told.”

Chicago defenseman Kimmo Timonen, acquired in a Feb. 27 trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, will skate in career game No. 1,100 against Dallas.

“Well that usually means you’re old,” Timonen said. “It’s hard to get there. It’s a lot of work, lot of miles, and a lot of days at the rink. Been kind of lucky not to have big injuries. That’s always huge when you talk about that many games. Just happy to be here still. It’s kind of cool.”

Quenneville is making one change to his forward lines. On the third line, left wing Kris Versteeg returns to skate on the right side alongside left wing Bryan Bickell and center Brad Richards after being scratched for a 1-0 win at the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

Quenneville is keeping his defensive pairings identical from the win against the Rangers.

Goalie Corey Crawford was first off the ice after morning skate and will start for the seventh time in eight games.

Chicago (43-21-6, 92 points) is on a four-game winning streak and the Blackhawks have won three of the four games against Dallas this season (3-1-0).

Two of those games have been decided by one goal, and Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he expects a similar game Saturday.

“Well, I think the games we’ve played them have been real exciting. There’s been a lot of pace in the games. I think both teams have very high skill level and I would expect the same,” Ruff said. “You’re not going to be able to take away all the opportunities. You’re going to need some big saves. If one team can get up by a couple, it might open up the game a little, but I would expect a real good pace to it.”

Ruff made one change to his forward lines from a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. On the second line, right wing Patrick Eaves, a healthy scratch against Pittsburgh, returns to the left side of a line with center Jason Spezza and left wing Ales Hemsky.

Left wing Antoine Roussel had occupied that spot against the Penguins, but Roussel dropped to the left side of the fourth line alongside center Vernon Fiddler and center Colton Sceviour, who is playing on the right.

That means left wing Ryan Garbutt, who returned to the ice on Thursday after being a healthy scratch in the previous three games, is again a scratch.

“[I told Garbutt] we need more production,” Ruff said. “[I said] other parts of your game have been good. I give you credit for the discipline you’ve gotten yourself to or your penalty killing.”

Ruff is keeping his defensive pairings identical from that victory against Pittsburgh.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice at morning skate and will start a sixth consecutive game for Dallas.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Brandon SaadAntoine VermetteTeuvo Teravainen

Bryan BickellBrad RichardsKris Versteeg

Joakim NordstromMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Duncan KeithMichal Rozsival

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Desjardins, David Rundblad

Injured: Patrick Kane (left clavicle fracture)

STARS

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Patrick EavesJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Curtis McKenzieShawn HorcoffBrett Ritchie

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJyrki Jokipakka

Patrik NemethJohn Klingberg

Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Ryan Garbutt

Injured: Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

Status report: When Versteeg missed the Rangers game Wednesday, it ended a string of 15 consecutive games played for the veteran forward. … Garbutt will miss his 12th game of the season due to either injury, suspension or being a healthy scratch. He missed seven all of last season.

Who's hot: Chicago has allowed the second-fewest goals in the NHL (2.21 goals/game). The Blackhawks have sent a league-best 34.1 shots on goal per game this season. Chicago owns the NHL’s second-best penalty kill (86.3 percent). … Lehtonen has reached 30 wins for the fifth time in his career and fourth time over the past five seasons.

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