The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are in town to take on the Dallas Stars tonight at American Airlines Center.
It will be the first time that Stars forward Patrick Sharp and Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya have faced their former team in the regular season since being acquired by Dallas in the offseason.
The Stars acquired Sharp and defense prospect Stephen Johns from Chicago in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. Sharp spent ten seasons in Chicago and won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks.
“I honestly think it is just another game,” Sharp said. “It’ll be a little different because it’s the first time I’ve played against my former team, but being in the Central Division, you look way down the line. We’re going to play these guys quite a bit, so any thoughts or feelings or emotions I have about playing my friends and my former teammates are going to be gone quickly because we’re going to see each quite a bit down the stretch.”
Sharp has 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in 34 games with the Stars. Along with the offense, Sharp has provided the Stars with experience and leadership.
“He’s just a good pro,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
The Stars signed Oduya as a free agent. He spent three-plus seasons with the Blackhawks, winning two Stanley Cups.
“We want to have a good finish here before the little break, lot of division games coming up,” said Oduya. “Obviously, they’re a good team. I have a lot of friends on that team. That makes me want to beat them even more.”
Oduya has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and a plus-13 rating in 34 games. He’s brought a strong defensive presence to the Dallas blue line.
“There’s an intensity to him,” Ruff said of Oduya. “I love his intensity. It’s surprised me. Sometimes you’ll look at a player and say well, he looks like a quiet player, but the intensity he brings to that defense core has been awesome.”
The Stars, who won 6-3 at Minnesota last night, did not hold a morning skate Tuesday at American Airlines Center. There were a few players on the ice, including goaltender Kari Lehtonen. That could mean that Antti Niemi gets the start in goal tonight against Chicago.
Jamie Oleksiak, Patrick Nemeth and Travis Moen – who were last night’s scratches – skated this morning as well.
Tonight’s game will be the Stars’ final one before the NHL’s holiday break. The Stars are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games. This is the Stars’ fifth set of back-to-back games. They are 2-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs so far this season.
Tonight’s game will mark Ryan Garbutt’s first game against the Dallas Stars since being traded to Chicago in the offseason. Garbutt, who was sent to Chicago as part of the Patrick Sharp deal, played 198 games for the Stars over four seasons, registering 70 points (30 goals, 40 assists).
“It’s definitely going to be a little bit emotional, but I’ve got to put that stuff aside and focus on the game,” Garbutt said. “Dallas is playing really well right now, and we are going to have to come ready to play tonight.
“I am definitely thankful for the chance that [the Stars] gave me, all the opportunities that they gave me. It’s always fun to see the guys you played with doing well. Definitely going to have those feelings tonight.”
Garbutt, who is expected to skate on the fourth line tonight, has four points (one goal, three assists) in 29 games this season.
Corey Crawford is the expected starter in goal tonight for Chicago, which has won three in a row and five of its past six games. Forward Marian Hossa will not play tonight due to an upper-body injury. This will be Chicago’s first look at the Stars this season.
“It’s a good test for us. They were down 2-0 [last night] and then they score three quick goals, and that’s what they’re capable of,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “They’ve got the best offensive team in the league. They can strike quick, they’re fast, they have a lot of different looks and they have a good power play as well, so all aspects have to be in order here today. We’ve got to make sure we play our A game against them. It’ll certainly be a great test for us to play the right way and go into the break feeling good.”
Who: Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars
Where: American Airlines Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Valeri Nichushkin – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Colton Sceviour
Mattias Janmark – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen
Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Teuvo Teravainen – Jonathan Toews – Andrew Shaw
Bryan Bickell – Dennis Rasmussen – Brandon Mashinter
Andrew Desjardins – Phillip Danault – Ryan Garbutt
Duncan Keith – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Brent Seabrook
Rob Scuderi – Michael Rozsival
Injured: Marian Hossa (upper body), Marcus Kruger (wrist)
Scratched: David Rundblad
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.