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Stars start homestand by hosting Blackhawks

by Pete Jensen
BLACKHAWKS (38-25-8) at STARS (39-27-5)


Last 10: Chicago 5-4-1; Dallas 8-1-1

Season Series: Friday marks the final clash of the season between the Blackhawks and Stars. Dallas has taken two of the first three meetings, turning the tide of the season series by scoring three third-period goals to rally past Chicago for a 3-1 win on Feb. 23 at United Center.

Big Story: Two teams in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture collide as Dallas welcomes Chicago to American Airlines Center to kick off a four-game homestand. The Stars had their six-game win streak snapped in a 5-2 loss at Winnipeg on Wednesday. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are still without captain Jonathan Toews but hope to keep the momentum rolling from their 4-3 shootout win on home ice over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. Chicago leads Dallas by one point in the standings, but the Pacific-leading Stars would own the higher playoff seed if the season ended today.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Staring at a 3-1 deficit after 20 minutes of play against the League's point leader is quite an obstacle, but the Hawks found a way to come back and win. Viktor Stalberg scored in the second period and Brent Seabrook notched the equalizer in the third to help Chicago earn a point. Corey Crawford took over from there, holding the Blues scoreless in the shootout to seal the Hawks' fourth win in six games this month. Crawford stopped all 18 shots he faced in relief of Ray Emery, who allowed three goals on six shots in the first period.

"We battled back," Crawford told the Chicago Tribune. "When we don't give up and stick with our game we could come back in almost any game. Even after getting down early we stuck with it and that's a huge two points for us."

Stars: During Dallas' six-game win streak to kick off the month of March, goaltending was the overwhelming strength as Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman allowed a combined eight goals during the stretch. But that trend failed to continue Wednesday as Bachman surrendered five goals on 28 shots in the Stars' lopsided loss to the Jets -- theirfirst regulation defeat in 12 games.

"Usually these [win streaks] come down with a thud," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "They usually come down pretty hard, knock the wind out of you and maybe wake you up. I'd be lying if I said that at some point we didn't talk about this [possibility] as a coaching group."

Who's Hot: Patrick Kane has accumulated five goals and three assists over his last eight games for the Blackhawks. … Jamie Benn has three goals and two assists in a five-game span for Dallas.

Injury Report: Toews is expected to miss his 12th consecutive game with an upper-body injury after it was revealed Thursday that he could be dealing with a setback in his recovery. Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) is doubtful for Friday's game at Dallas, while Sami Lepisto (leg) and Steve Montador (upper body) are out for the Blackhawks. … Sheldon Souray (lower body) and Radek Dvorak (ankle) are expected to be out of the lineup for the Stars, while Philip Larsen (lower body) is questionable.

Stat Pack: On Tuesday, Chicago handed division rival St. Louis its first loss of the season when scoring three or more goals. The Blues had been 36-0-0 in those situations this season.

Puck Drop : "Whether it's a setback or a part of the process, that's what we're dealing with. It's a concern. You miss a guy like [Toews] and look forward to having him back at some point, but at the same time you look forward and take care of what we can control ... and that's our next game." -- Hawks' coach Joel Quenneville on the absence of Toews

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