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Stars chase rare road win against Blackhawks

by Eric Goodman
STARS (26-21-11) at BLACKHAWKS (38-15-5)

Last 10 --
Dallas 6-4-0; Chicago 5-4-1

Season series --
This is the third of four meetings between the Stars and Blackhawks. Dallas won the two previous games this season after losing all four contests to Chicago during the 2008-09 season.

Big story --
The Stars will attempt to work their way toward a season sweep of the Blackhawks, a feat they have not accomplished since the 2005-06 season. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have been among the NHL's top teams and are attempting to end the season with the most points in the Western Conference. The last time Chicago had the most points in its respective conference was the 1992-93 season when it won the former Campbell Conference with 106 points as a member of the renamed and realigned Norris Division.

Team Scope:

Stars -- Dallas has not fared very well away from American Airlines Center this season. While a 4-0 win against Phoenix on Saturday improved the Stars' home record to an impressive 18-6-4, they are only 8-15-6 this season as the visiting club. But they should get a bit of a boost with the return of center Mike Ribeiro, who was activated off of injured reserve on Monday after suffering a throat contusion against the New York Rangers on Jan. 6 at Madison Square Garden.

Blackhawks -- The 'Hawks have been flying high, amazingly only suffering a single three-game losing streak all season long. However, that brief dry spell was quickly ended with a solid 2-1 victory at St. Louis on Saturday. Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews both tallied in the first period, while goalie Antti Niemi made 34 saves to seal the win.

"We worked hard, got off to a good start and we knew it was going to be a tight game for three periods," Toews said after Saturday's game. "That's a good win, and that's the kind of effort we need to keep showing up with every night."
Who’s hot --
Marty Turco is a winner of three of his last five games, with a 2.00 goals-against average over that span. … Niemi has won three of his last four starts for Chicago, compiling a 2.00 GAA during that time.

Injury report -- Now that Ribeiro is back and center Mike Modano returned on Saturday after missing a game with a lower-body injury, Dallas will only be without center Tom Wandell (knee surgery). … The 'Hawks are expected to have a fully healthy roster.

Stat pack --
Niemi, the Chicago backup goalie, leads the NHL this season with a 1.93 GAA over 19 games played. However, when you combine his GAA with regular Blackhawks starter Cristobal Huet, that 2.11 number is still good for tops in the League when compared to any individual regular starting goaltender this season. Ryan Miller, Buffalo's starter, is third in the NHL with a 2.16 GAA behind Niemi and Boston Bruins backup Tuukka Rask (2.02 GAA).
Puck drop --
When it comes to making the playoffs, it's no secret that goaltending can make or break a club. Both Chicago and Dallas are lucky to have such talented players between the pipes, although the Stars will need Turco to turn on the after burners if they hope to sneak into the post season.

"He's played very well in the last three," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "Probably the biggest thing he needed was a break; he didn't want it to be as long as he got it, but all you can do in those types of situations is prepare for your next outing. Definitely he's feeling good about himself right now."

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