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Blackhawks face Stars as they build toward playoffs

by Mike G. Morreale

BLACKHAWKS (49-22-7) at STARS (35-30-14)

Last 10 -- Chicago 5-4-1; Dallas 5-4-1

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting between the Stars and Blackhawks. The Hawks scored a 4-3 shootout victory at United Center on Feb. 9 but the Stars still hold a 2-1 lead in the season series after taking the first two games earlier this season.

Big Story --
The Blackhawks earned their first division title since winning the Norris Division in 1992-93 when the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. They then went out and scored a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames and appear to be heating up at the right time, winning their last three games while outscoring the opposition, 9-2. Prior to the current winning streak, the Hawks were 2-5-2 over their previous nine contests.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks --
The Blackhawks have reached 49 wins to equal the team record set in 1970-71 and again matched in 1990-91. Most importantly, the Hawks have closed to within two points of Western Conference-leading San Jose for the top seed and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs with four games left, including a home-ice showdown against the Detroit Red Wings in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

Stars -- Playing in their 18th game in 33 nights since the Olympic break, the inconsistencies continued for the Stars on Saturday as they missed out on an opportunity to build their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 2-1 loss to St. Louis. Blues defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo scored a power-play goal in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie at Scottrade Center. Dallas is the only team in the League this season that has failed to string together three successive victories.

Who's Hot --
Chicago's Patrick Kane has scored 84 points, the most for a Blackhawks' player since Tony Amonte in 1999-2000. … Dallas captain Brenden Morrow has 4 goals and 10 points in the last 11 games. Morrow needs one more goal to secure the fifth 20-plus goal season of his career.

Injury Report --
Chicago defensemen Kim Johnsson (concussion) and Brian Campbell (broken collarbone) are out. … Dallas is without left wing Krys Barch, who sustained a cut to the back of his leg against San Jose on Thursday.

Stat Pack --
Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi is 6-2 in the shootout this year, and his .812 save percentage (26 of 32) is the best in the NHL among goaltenders that have faced at least 20 shootout attempts.

Puck Drop --
"It's great to be part of history, it really is," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "This team has really turned around since my first year here. This is a long time coming and when you see it has been 17 years, and I was four years old the last time (Chicago won the division championship). This is special for the Blackhawks fans and a lot of fun."

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