Seeking a third consecutive victory, the Chicago Blackhawks look to notch their best start in 19 years on Friday when they visit the Dallas Stars, a team they haven't beaten in nearly five years.
The only time the Blackhawks have had a winning record over the past nine seasons came in 2001-02, also the last time they made the playoffs. They could finally be headed back to the postseason if their strong opening continues.
A victory Friday will give the Blackhawks (4-2-0) their best start since winning five of their first seven games in 1987-88. They also could match their longest win streak from all of last season, a three-game run from Nov. 13-19.
"I think every win gives you more confidence," left wing Martin Havlat said.
A key reason for Chicago's success has been the production from Havlat and center Bryan Smolinski. The pair was acquired from Ottawa as part of a three-team deal in July, and is responsible for 10 of the team's 25 goals.
Havlat scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season in the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Montreal on Wednesday night. He scored only nine goals in 18 games last season as he missed 58 games with a dislocated right shoulder. Havlat has scored a goal in all but one of Chicago's games and has a plus-8 rating.
Smolinski added the game-winner Wednesday night.
"It doesn't matter who scores, it's still two points," Smolinski said.
Despite scoring just twice on Wednesday, Chicago is among the league leaders in goals this season after finishing second-to-last in the league with 209 last season.
The Blackhawks were outscored 24-8 in dropping all four matchups with Dallas in 2005-06. Chicago has lost six straight overall against the Stars and is winless in the last 14 meetings dating to Jan. 20, 2002.
Chicago has lost seven straight trips to Dallas since a 2-2 tie on Oct. 20, 2001.
The Stars (5-1-0) missed a chance on Tuesday to match the franchise record for consecutive wins to open a season, falling 2-0 at San Jose.
It was the end of a four-game road trip for Dallas, which has played only one home game this season.
Despite the Stars' lack of offense Tuesday, the loss didn't seem to put a damper on the mood of the team.
"We just had some bad luck tonight, and that happens," center Mike Modano said. "It wasn't for lack of effort. We skated pretty well. Anyone will take a 3-1 road trip. It's a good start to the season. We established a base."
The Stars come home having allowed the fewest goals (10) in the NHL. Goaltender Marty Turco, who has started every game, is among the league leaders with a 1.64 goals-against average.
Dallas' early success hasn't come without some excitement. The Stars rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to win 3-2 in their season opener against Colorado, and won 4-3 in a shootout against Anaheim on Sunday.
"So far, we've found different ways to win games - getting leads, shootouts, coming from behind - and that's good," Modano said. "You just find ways to win games and worry about the X's and O's later."