STARS (16-8-2) at BLACKHAWKS (15-12-2)
: FS-SW (HD),CSN-CH+ (HD)
: Dallas 7-1-2; Chicago 7-3-0
: This is the first meeting of the season between Dallas and Chicago. The Blackhawks salvaged a 2009-10 season series tie in their last meeting, a 5-2 win at Dallas on April 6.
: With the recent news that winger Patrick Kane
will miss at least three weeks, the Hawks are now charged with staying afloat without two of their offensive pillars. Their first test of stability won't be easy when they host the surging Stars Wednesday night.
: After spending the last two springs on the links instead of the ice, the Stars weren't tabbed as a contender for 2010-11, but a quarter of the way through the season, Dallas is still sticking around and doesn't appear to going anywhere any time soon. The Stars have picked up a point in their last seven games -- a stretch that includes a six-game winning streak which was snapped in a shootout loss at Columbus on Monday. Their recent run has landed the Stars in first place in the Pacific with a two-point edge over the second-place Coyotes, but this is no product of a soft division. Dallas' 16 wins are the second most in the Western Conference despite its having played the second fewest games.
With a number of wins over traditional League powers this season, the Stars can reaffirm their status with a victory in the home of the defending champs on Wednesday, but for one player that win could be far more meaningful. Winger Adam Burish
has strong ties to the Midwest as an NCAA Champion with the University of Wisconsin, but the former Badger was more notable in the Windy City as a member of the Blackhawks for parts of four seasons. A fan favorite for his brash, outspoken style, Burish was so popular in Chicago that he once made a special appearance as a security guard on The Jerry Springer Show when it was still filmed in the city. Wednesday will mark Burish's return to the United Center, and he will doubtlessly want to make the Hawks regret letting him walk this offseason.
: Just as the Blackhawks appeared to be getting hot and regaining their championship form, two injuries have left them severely limited for the rest of the calendar year. Chicago has climbed back into second place with seven wins in its last 10 games, but maintaining that consistency will be difficult with the news Tuesday that Kane will miss, in the words of coach Joel Quenneville, "upwards of three weeks" after suffering a lower-body injury 23 seconds into Chicago's 4-2 win over Calgary Sunday night. The loss of the Hawks' second-leading scorer is compounds an already tough situation for the offense, as Marian Hossa
has been out since late November with a lower-body injury. While Hossa is expected to start skating later this week his return to action is thought to be at least a week away.
Such thinness on Chicago's top lines means the rest of the offense will have to do its share in carrying the load. While Dave Bolland
chipped in with two goals Sunday and Jonathan Toews
has tallied five points in the last three games, the Hawks will need as much production as it can get out of Patrick Sharp
. That shouldn't be much of a problem with Sharp in the midst of a very strong season -- he has 16 goals and 13 assists in 28 games -- but the winger has not registered a point in Chicago's last two games. How much Sharp can contribute will go a long way towards helping the Blackhawks weather the current storm.
: Dallas' physical left wing Steve Ott
has made his presence felt on the scoresheet lately, potting three goals in the last four games. ... If Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford
has usurped the starting role yet, it may only be a matter of time. Crawford has won his last six starts while putting together a 1.97 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.
: Kane and Hossa's injuries leave the Hawks seriously depleted up front, and Chicago may also be without Fernando Pisani, who is listed as questionable with an upper-body injury. Dallas recently placed enforcer Krys Barch on injured reserve with an ankle injury, while forward Toby Petersen
is questionable with a hand injury.
: Offense isn't a regular concern for Chicago, but with two of their top four scorers out, the Hawks may have reason to be worried. Kane and Hossa have combined for 19 of the Blackhawks' 88 goals this season -- 21.6 percent of the team's output.
: With their injury woes the Hawks face a tall order to keep themselves on solid footing until Hossa and Kane have both returned, and with Chicago already behind in the Central Division race, any win is a good win so long as two points come out of it. That won't be easy against the upstart Stars, but with Dallas surprisingly on top of a division that sent three teams to the postseason this past spring -- and with Dallas not being one of them -- a win in Chicago can only help prove the Stars' legitimacy, as well as keep them in the front of what is sure to be a competitive race in the Pacific.