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Stars-Blackhawks Preview

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Chicago Blackhawks at Dallas Stars

Thursday October 9, 2014
7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

About the Stars

Expectations are high for the Stars, who ended a five-year playoff drought last season and added center Jason Spezza and right wing Ales Hemsky to their top six forward mix this offseason.

“I am cautiously optimistic. It’s the way most coaches are,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I like where we are at, but I think our team understands we have to be ready to outwork teams. There has been a lot of nice things said about us, but we’ve got to put the work in. It just won’t happen. It’s the point I am really trying to drive home. We have a lot of work ahead of us. It’s not going to be easy.”

The Stars will face a good opening test in Chicago, one of the top teams in the NHL and a team many prognosticators are picking to win the Stanley Cup this season.

“They’ve just been a good team year in and year out. They were a good team again last year. We had some real good games against them and one real tough one,” said Ruff. “I think we know what we have to do against them. If we want to be one of the better teams in the West we’ve got to beat the better teams. So, it’s going to have to start tomorrow.”

Kari Lehtonen is expected to get the start in goal for Dallas.

Injuries: D Sergei Gonchar (ankle) is out. C Rich Peverley (heart) is on injured non-roster status.

About the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks made it to the Western Conference Final last season, losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles in seven games. Chicago is considered a strong favorite to win the Cup this season.

“We’ve been there before,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told Chicago media about being favorites. “What's said outside of our locker room, whether it is good or bad, we just have to learn to not listen to it and just focus on what's being said inside this locker room.”

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he expects season openers to be fast paced and that will especially be the case with a speedy Dallas team that likes to push the pace.

“Everybody is revved up to go and it’s kind of the like the pace of a first playoff game,” Quenneville said. “[I expect] a very fast pace [Thursday]. They’ve got a fast team and a lot of skill.”

Former Star Brad Richards, signed by Chicago as a free agent this summer, is expected to center the Blackhawks’ third line Thursday.

Corey Crawford is expected to start in goal for Chicago.

Injuries: F Kris Versteeg (lower body) and D Michal Rozsival (upper body) are out.

Series Notes

*This is the first of five meetings between the Stars and Blackhawks this season.

*The Stars were 1-3-1 (3 points) vs. Chicago last season.

*The Blackhawks were 4-1-0 (8 points) vs. the Stars last season.

*The Stars are 99-123-36 all-time vs. Chicago.

Statistical tidbits

*The Stars were 4-2-0 in the preseason.

*The Blackhawks were 2-3-1 in exhibition play.

*F Tyler Seguin led the Stars in goals (3) and points (7) during the preseason (4 games played).

*D Duncan Keith led the Blackhawks in preseason scoring with 4 points (0 goals, 4 assists) in 4 games.

*F Andrew Shaw led the Blackhawks with 3 goals in 4 preseason games.

*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 5-6-2 all-time vs. Chicago with a 2.81 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

*Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is 8-5-0 in his career vs. Dallas with a 2.40 goals against average and .904 save percentage.

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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