DALLAS — The circus trip has made it back to the states, with two games remaining on this 13-day, seven-game stint. The Blackhawks have done well against the Dallas Stars as of late, but the defending Cup champions have gone 4-1-0 on this road trip by not taking anyone lightly.
Corey Crawford will get the start after finally — finally — getting a full game off on Wednesday. Sheldon Brookbank is back as the sixth defenseman while Mike Kostka (foot) is close, but won’t play tonight.
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So as you bob and weave the moronic Black Friday crowds — seriously, is it really worth all that? — we give you the Five Things to watch in tonight’s Blackhawks-Stars game.
1. Keep at it against Kari Lehtonen. We’re assuming Mr. Lehtonen gets the start tonight, although he was expected to start Tuesday against Anaheim but didn’t. Still, let’s say he does. The Blackhawks are familiar with him and know how tough he is to beat. The same rules apply vs. Lehtonen as other goaltenders: get bodies, sticks in his way. It just applies longer to him. “I think it’s something we face every time,” Brandon Saad said. “We know how good he is. We just want to get traffic and rebounds.”
2. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill hasn’t gone on the job much recently; when it has, it’s been better. And it could improve more against the Stars, whose power play is 1-for-32 at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks went 6-for-6 on the kill vs. Dallas earlier this month. We wouldn’t suggest that many trips to the box, but the Stars’ power play lacks confidence and production at home, and the Blackhawks want to keep it that way.
[WATCH: Hawks picking up steam on the road]
3. Watching a pair of Stars. Jamie Benn has two points in his past four games and Tyler Seguin has just one in that stretch, but the Blackhawks see these two as potential pests if they’re not careful in defending them. “They’re one of the dangerous duos in the league, (two guys) you have to keep your eye on every shift,” Kris Versteeg said. “They have a lot of speed in the lineup and can create something out of nothing if you’re not ready.”
4. Maintain the energy levels. The Blackhawks have been on the road a long time, and we’re reaching the point where the miles could catch up with them. Coach Joel Quenneville has given them their rest — just one practice on this road trip — so the Blackhawks will come out fresh every game. It’s worked thus far. It has to work for two more games, starting tonight against a Stars team that hasn’t played since Tuesday. “It’s not like we’re on the ice a lot,” Quenneville said. “So hopefully there’s an appetite to play.”
5. It’s pick-to-click time. It’s too easy to select Patrick Kane, right? We’ll see if he continues to add to his career-best 12-game point streak. But as far as clicking, we’ll go with Patrick Sharp.