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Blackhawks continue road trip in Dallas

by Mike Battaglino

BLACKHAWKS (22-2-3) at STARS (12-11-3)

TV: CSN-Chicago, FS-Southwest

Last 10: Chicago 8-2-0; Dallas 4-4-2

Season series: This is the second of three meetings, both in Dallas. Chicago overcame the first threat to what became a 24-game points streak when it reached 4-0-0 with a 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 24. The Blackhawks trailed 2-0 but got a third-period goal from Jonathan Toews to tie it before Marian Hossa won it in overtime.

Big story: After opening the season 21-0-3, the Blackhawks ended a two-game losing streak and remain ahead of the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference. With a 2-1 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday, the Blackhawks lead the Ducks by four points having played one more game.

The Stars are in a race of their own -- at the bottom of a group of seven Western teams with 30 to 27 points in the standings, holding places five through 11.

"You could even feel the energy in here today," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said at practice Friday. "We know who our opponent is tomorrow. … Going into the Chicago game, we know what they've [done], and everybody in the hockey world knows what they've done. There's a little amped up energy here."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: After allowing six goals each in losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers, Chicago shut down Columbus with 29 saves from Corey Crawford.

"I thought we had better structure, particularly in our own end," coach Joel Quenneville said Friday. "Defensively we were aware. ... I thought what we gave up was on the stingy side, which we have to be. Giving up 12 goals in two games, we got away from what made us successful."

This is the second of a four-game road trip that ends with a rematch against the Avalanche, who stopped the 24-game streak last Friday, and a showdown against the Ducks.

"We're going into some tough buildings here," Quenneville said. "We've got a team that's going to be very dangerous [Friday] night ... they've got some weapons up front. But it's the same approach no matter who our opponent is: It's how we prepare, how we're ready for games. The simpler we play the game the better off we are."

Stars: Dallas is having trouble on offense -- the Stars have been outscored 8-2 during a three-game losing streak that continued with a 2-1 shootout loss to Anaheim on Thursday.

"We have to start burying the puck because these last few games we haven't created enough offensive opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net," forward Reilly Smith said after the loss.

The Stars would be helped by the return of forward Jamie Benn, who has missed two games with a wrist injury. Benn skated during an optional workout Friday and will be a game-day decision.

"We'll see how he is at tomorrow's skate," Gulutzan said Friday. "He didn't shoot any pucks today, so we'll see how he is at the morning skate and we'll make a decision after that."

Who's hot: Taking away a 4-0 loss to Nashville, Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen has stopped 104 of 110 shots (.945 save percentage) in his other four March games. Forward Loui Eriksson has four points in his past five games. … Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane reached 400 career points with an assist Thursday. He has four points in his past two games and is tied for sixth in the League with 31 points, and his game-deciding goal in Thursday's shootout was his third of the season, tying him for the League lead. Forward Brandon Saad has six points in his past five games.

Injury report: Stars forward Ryan Garbutt (hand) was injured Thursday and is questionable. Defenseman Aaron Rome (foot) is day-to-day. … Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp (shoulder) is out.

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