The Dallas Stars are looking to head into their fourth straight playoff appearance on a roll. Beating a Chicago Blackhawks club that has surprisingly given them problems this season would help.
The Stars try to avoid their third straight loss to the Blackhawks when the teams meet at the American Airlines Center in their season finale Sunday.
Dallas (49-25-7) was 13-0-0 with a tie in 14 games against Chicago from April 12, 2002-Oct. 20, 2006, but has dropped the last two matchups, both by 2-1 scores. The Stars were a combined 0-for-8 on the power play in those two defeats, and will now be trying to avoid losing the season series to Chicago for the first time since 1995-96.
Dallas has done much better against the Blackhawks at home, though, outscoring them 37-17 while winning eight straight meetings there and going 15-1-1 with a tie in the last 18 matchups.
The Stars are 27-11-2 at the American Airlines Center this season, with wins in six of their last seven games on home ice. Dallas is sixth in the Western Conference, so it won't open the postseason at home, but its hoping to finish the season strong there.
The Stars rebounded from back-to-back defeats with a 2-1 shootout win over visiting Anaheim on Friday. Stars left wing Brenden Morrow scored with 6.1 seconds left in regulation to force the extra period and Ladislav Nagy had the only goal in the shootout.
"We wanted a game where we were going to build some momentum (heading into the playoffs)," Stars coach Dave Tippett told the team's official Web site. "We were finally able to get it late in the game. We played a better game tonight. Had we not won, we still did some things we can build on."
Despite its stumble in the two games prior to Saturday's victory, Dallas has been building lately, going 11-2-2 in its last 15 games. Marty Turco, who made 21 saves and stopped four Anaheim shooters Friday, has gone 8-2-1 in that span.
He has been even better in his career against the Blackhawks (31-41-9), going 11-2-0 with a tie and a 1.52 goals-against average in 15 games - his third-best GAA against any opponent. Turco has won all six starts against Chicago at home.
Chicago allowed six unanswered goals to open Saturday's game and went on to a 7-2 loss at Detroit. Radim Vrbata and Jeff Hamilton scored for the Blackhawks, who were outshot 39-21.
"It was a rough night in our end. We got beat back two times, we didn't clear their guys from in front of the net," said Blackhawks coach Denis Savard, whose team had a season-high four-game winning streak snapped. "First period, a couple bounces went against us, weren't very good goals. It just kind of snowballed from there."
Chicago, which will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, was shut out on four power-play chances and is 0-for-13 over the last five games. Breaking out of that slump Sunday will be difficult, as the Stars have killed off their last 22 short-handed situations.
Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who replaced Patrick Lalime in the third period Saturday and stopped all 15 shots he faced, is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA against the Stars in 2006-07.
Khabibulin's last start was his best of the season, as he turned aside 56 shots in a 3-2 victory over the Red Wings on Thursday.
Dallas could be without Jere Lehtinen (lower-body strain), Krys Barch (upper-body injury), Trevor Daley (upper-body strain), Eric Lindros (groin) and Matthew Barnaby (concussion), who are all day-to-day.