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Another Big Test

Stars look to build on win over St. Louis as they take on Chicago in home-and-home

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The mood was good in Frisco Friday morning following Thursday night's 6-2 win over the St. Louis Blues that snapped a three-game losing streak. It was a big win for the Stars against a tough divisional opponent. And after playing a couple of good games but not getting results, the Stars finally reaped some rewards.

"It was important for us, because the psyche of the team," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought emotionally our team was engaged in the game. There's a lot of plays they laid it on the line; it was a tough game. We got rewarded for going to the net; we got people there. We got some breaks finally where we haven't gotten any, and I think if we maintain that type of presence, we'll get results."

Thursday's game was a big test, and the two points should give the Stars some momentum as they continue a key stretch in their schedule.

"Any time you get a big win against a really good team like that, it's a big confidence booster for this locker room," said defenseman Stephen Johns.

The next big test comes this weekend when they'll take on the Chicago Blackhawks in a home-and-home series. The two teams will play Saturday at American Airlines Center and then Sunday at United Center.

"We're looking forward to it," Ruff said. "They are going really well. Their goaltender is red hot."

Video: Stars riding momentum from big win

The Blackhawks have won four straight games and outscored their opponents 15-3. Goaltender Corey Crawford has allowed one goal over the past three games, stopping 103 of 104 shots. Chicago sits on top of the Central Division with a 7-3-1 (15 points) record.

Thursday's win helped get Stars back to the .500 mark at 4-4-2 (10 points). It's early, but divisional games are always big.

"I think it's going to be huge. Obviously, these points are huge, especially in our division," said Stars forward Adam Cracknell. "It's a huge test for us, especially back-to-back and these are big character games for both teams."

The Stars won four of five games against Chicago last season, outscoring the Blackhawks, 20-11. In two of the games, the Stars jumped out to 4-0 leads in the first period.

"We came out and we did a lot of damage in the first period a lot of games. That was speed, that was getting pucks to the net, some nights it was power play," Ruff said. "It was a lot of different things, but I think it wasn't because we came out and played defense. We came out and went after them and ended up scoring goals, which got them behind, and it's not easy to play from behind in this league."

Ruff said taking care of the defensive side of things could be key this time around, and then finding a way to crack Crawford.

"We have to make sure that we're taking care of our own end because we don't have quite the depth of firepower that we had when we were playing them last year," Ruff said. "We got down the lineup and we had some personnel that did some damage for us. So, we'll start with the one game. Top of the circles down, we're going to have to try to create the opportunities again by getting around this goaltender, making him fight for the second opportunities, no different than [Thursday night]."

Thursday night was the product of the Stars taking some steps in the right direction the previous two games and then seeing that progress pay dividends against St. Louis. They'll look for more of the same this weekend against Chicago.

"We got rewarded by playing the right way [Thursday] night, and those are the bounces we're working towards," said Cracknell. "I think if we learn from last game, that we keep getting to the dirty areas and scoring those goals, the nice ones will come. And they did last night, but I think a lot of hard work went into those goals."

Hudler still out

Stars forward Jiri Hudler was not at the Stars practice facility on Friday and is still out due to the illness that has sidelined him for six games this season. Hudler missed five games, returned for two and then missed Thursday's game against St. Louis.

"He's still not feeling well. Some type of virus. He's battling something that has been tough on him," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Hudler is not likely to play this weekend when the Stars play a home-and-home series with Chicago on Saturday and Sunday.

Practice notes

The Stars held an optional practice in Frisco on Friday with ten players taking the ice, eight skaters, and two goaltenders.

Forwards on the ice were Antoine Roussel, Devin Shore, Adam Cracknell, Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie and Gemel Smith. The defensemen skating were Stephen Johns, Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak. Goaltenders Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen both skated as well. 

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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