The Dallas Stars will be without center Martin Hanzal tonight when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Hanzal is back in Dallas being evaluated with an undisclosed injury. His status moving forward is still up in the air.
"We don't even know what the injury is. We don't even know where it is, to be honest with you," Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The general soreness just comes up all the time, and we've got to figure it out."
Injuries have plagued Hanzal this season. He missed training camp and all but one preseason game due to an ankle injury. During the regular season, he's missed three games with a lower-body injury and two games with a hand injury.
"It's very disappointing for him. We've learned to deal with it, but it's been very disappointing for him," Hitchcock said. "He's been a very effective player in every game, but for whatever reason he can't seem to stay healthy.
"It's been a big swing for us, because when you have a player that plays both ends of special teams and 5-on-5, there's a lot of ice time that gets allocated to that player. So, you've got to get other players up to speed. That's the challenge facing us."
With Hanzal out, Hitchcock will juggle his lines, including reuniting Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov on the top line. Those three have been split up the past nine games with Benn and Seguin centering separate lines.
Video: Elie is back in the lineup
"The rest of the guys are up and running, so I think we are ready for it," Hitchcock said. "Ideally, this is what you want, but if we think we are being outplayed in the middle of the ice, we'll go right back. This is very short-term, and we'll evaluate on a short-term basis. This is game to game, and there is no plan other than this works for us as long as other players are adding to the mix."
Jason Spezza will center Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore. Remi Elie, who has been a healthy scratch, will draw back in and play on a line with Gemel Smith and Brett Ritchie. The line of Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa and Tyler Pitlick stays together.
Hitchcock said the Stars would skate all seven defensemen in warm-ups and then decide on who is in and who is out.
Ben Bishop will get the start in goal. Bishop, who will be making his fifth straight start, is coming off a 34-save shutout at Vegas and is 4-1-0 in his past five decisions.
The Stars (13-10-1) have won their past two games and are 4-1-0 in their past five games.
Tonight's game is the first of a home-and-home series between the Stars and Blackhawks who are tied at 27 points and hold the final two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. They are two big so-called four-point games between two teams in a group of eight teams separated by three points in the West.
Corey Crawford will get the start in goal tonight for the Blackhawks. He is 4-0-1 in his past five starts and is 11-7-1 on the season with a 2.21 goals against average and .933 save percentage. The Blackhawks, who are coming off a 3-2 loss at Nashville on Tuesday, are 4-1-1 in their past six games and 12-9-3 on the season. Forward Jordin Tootoo cleared waivers Thursday and was assigned to the AHL.
Who: Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Stars Projected Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Devin Shore
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie - Gemel Smith - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Martin Hanzal (undisclosed), Marc Methot (knee)
Blackhawks Projected Lineup
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
Nick Schmaltz - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Ryan Hartman - Alex DeBrincat
Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden
Duncan Keith - Cody Franson
Connor Murphy - Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta
Scratched: Michal Kempny, Tanner Kero, Jordan Oesterle
Injured: Michal Rozsival (concussion)
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @StarsInsideEdge.