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At the Rink: Stars at Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- Any way you present them, the numbers haven't been pretty for the Chicago Blackhawks the past month.

Their record is pedestrian. Their penalty kill has become a little leaky. Their puck possession is down quite a bit from its usual level.

The next chance to restart the engine is against the Dallas Stars at United Center on Sunday, when the Blackhawks have a chance to win their fourth game this season against Dallas.

"We've got to get back to playing the way we have in the past few years, controlling the puck, puck possession, making plays and putting shots on net," Chicago right wing Patrick Kane said. "That seems to be our best recipe."

Since losing 3-2 in overtime at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 20, Chicago is 6-5-1 and has won more than one game in a row once. The Blackhawks have alternated victories and defeats since the calendar flipped to 2015 and their puck-possession numbers have dipped significantly.

Through seven games in January, Chicago ranks 21st in Corsi-for percentage with the score close during 5-on-5 play (47.9 percent), according to war-on-ice.com. That statistic measures the percentage of total shots attempted under specific circumstances. Subtracting shot attempts that were blocked puts the Blackhawks' Fenwick-for percentage under the same filters at 46.4 percent, which ranks 22nd among NHL teams.

Those are striking numbers. From the season's start through a 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild at United Center on Dec. 16, the Blackhawks dominated puck-possession measures.

Before the slide, they ranked first in Corsi-for percentage during 5-on-5 close play (55.7 percent). Their Corsi plus-minus in those situations was plus-215, which meant Chicago attempted 215 more shots than its opponents during that span. Taking out blocked shots, the Blackhawks had tied for second in Fenwick-for percentage with the Tampa Bay Lightning (54.6 percent).

More traditional statistical measures tell a similar story. After being outshot 10 times in the first 32 games, Chicago has gotten less shots on goal in each of the past four games, including a 44-20 disadvantage in a 4-2 win at Minnesota on Jan. 8. That game did the most damage to the Blackhawks' secondary stats, but it wasn't the only reason for the steep decline.

Who's more responsible for the drop, the Blackhawks or the opposition?

"Probably a mixture of both," Kane said. "I think we'll take, I guess you call it, the blame. There's a lot of things you can do to get the puck back, get possession. The main thing is hard work."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville isn't too concerned yet. One of the biggest things Chicago's coaches and front office track are scoring chances, not shots or shot attempts. Quenneville said those haven't risen dramatically for opponents in their funk.

"Our last two games at home, the chances are kind of comparable," Quenneville said. "We felt we didn’t give up a ton. Whether they get shots or not, we usually measure scoring chances. I think we're [giving up] maybe a little bit, a tad, higher than what we've been through most of the season, but nothing alarming."

The same can be said for Chicago's penalty kill, which has allowed at least one power-play goal in six of the past 10 games. The Blackhawks still rank first in the NHL in penalty kill success rate (88.6 percent), but have allowed six goals in the past 28 man-advantage situations through 10 games (78.5 percent).

Neither the Blackhawks nor the Stars held a morning skate Sunday. Dallas is playing the second half of a back-to-back set after defeating the Washington Capitals 5-4 at American Airlines Center on Saturday.

Goalie Corey Crawford will start for Chicago. Veteran defenseman Michal Rozsival, who missed practice Saturday, is expected to play.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after the game against the Capitals that defenseman Trevor Daley is expected to be out with an undisclosed injury until after the All-Star break, which ends Jan. 26. Ruff has not named a starting goalie. Kari Lehtonen is 0-1-2 against Chicago this season after starting the first three games.

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Colton Sceviour

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Travis Moen

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: David Schlemko, Curtis McKenzie

Injured: Trevor Daley (undisclosed), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (lower body), Patrik Nemeth (arm laceration)

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Teuvo Teravainen - Ben Smith

Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

David Rundblad - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Daniel Carcillo

Injured: Kris Versteeg (hand/wrist), Trevor van Riemsdyk (patella)

Status report: McKenzie might play after being recalled Saturday from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey league. ... If Rozsival doesn't play, Erixon will play left point on the third defense pairing with Rundblad. ... Erixon was a healthy scratch the past seven games and has played in five of 14 games since being acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Who's hot: Chicago's top line is scorching right now. Saad has three goals and an assist in the past three games. Toews has six assists during a four-game point streak. Hossa has a goal and four assists in the past three games. ... Cole has five goals and four assists in his past eight games, including two goals and an assist against Chicago at United Center on Jan. 4.

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