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Monday Update: Blackhawks up next as Stars hit the road

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

After taking seven of ten points on a five-game homestand that featured some stiff opposition, the Dallas Stars look to keep rolling when they hit the road for three straight games.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier on the road trip, especially game one. The Stars will be in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks Tuesday.

You don’t want to have a letdown. We’ll go into Chicago, try to get a win and try to build some momentum off that,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We know Chicago is a very important game for us. It’s a tough rink to play in, and they are a team we have a lot of respect for. We’re working our way through some tough teams.”

This will be the final meeting of the season between the Stars and Blackhawks. The Stars have won three of the first four games from Chicago, including a 5-2 win to open the just-concluded homestand. The Stars also have 4-2 and 4-0 wins over the Blackhawks. Despite the success, the Stars don’t see an advantage in the matchup.

“No, I don’t think so. Every game is kind of individual,” Spezza said. “Our special teams have been good against them, and we’ve managed to score early and not play from behind. They play a similar style to what we do, so we have to make sure we have the puck lots because if they do it can be a long night.”

The team that scored first has won each time this season. The Stars were 5-16 on the power play in the three wins. In the only loss, the Stars were 0-6 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals and one power play goal.

“I think we’ve taken advantage of our early offensive opportunities in a couple games, and that’s made the difference,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We haven’t had to chase the game, and we haven’t had to open up against them. In the game they won here, we had some good opportunities but we turned some good ones into good ones for them and they ended up winning the game.”

Of course, the game on Tuesday is a key one in the Central Division race as well. The Stars, who continue to hold the top spot in the division, are two points ahead of St. Louis and four points ahead of Chicago. All three teams have nine games remaining.

“I think every team is going to try hard to win the division, and we are going to do the same,” said Ruff. “I think through some of the injuries we’ve had these past ten days to two weeks, we’ve proved that we can get by with personnel out of the lineup. Our goal is to try to win as many games as we can and if through that process we win the division, I think that is a great thing.”

Defenseman Kris Russell didn’t practice Monday and defenseman Alex Goligoski was on the ice briefly before leaving. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it was maintenance for both players.

Hopefully, both will be good to go,” Ruff said.

Defenseman Jordie Benn (lower body) and Mattias Janmark (upper body) both practiced. Ruff said Benn was good to go.

“Jordie for sure,” Ruff said. “Janmark first time out with the team, so it might take him a couple more practices.”

Here’s how the Stars lined up in Monday’s practice.

Jamie Benn/Mattias JanmarkCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Colton Sceviour/Travis MoenVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie

Johnny Oduya
Stephen Johns

Patrik NemethJohn Klingberg

Jordie BennJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

This story was not subject to the 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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