Battle for the Central Division
On Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars will not only be battling for the Central Division title, but more importantly the top spot in the Western Conference. The Dallas Stars hold the best record in the Western Conference (43-21-9) with 95 points and are currently 4 points ahead of the Blackhawks (42-24-7). A lot can change between now and the end of the regular season, with several teams within striking distance to capture the top spot in the West. The St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings both have 93 points while the Anaheim Ducks (89 points); San Jose Sharks (88 points) and Nashville Predators (87 points) all remain close behind.
Dallas Stars on Fire
The Stars completed their 5-game homestand with a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Kari Lehtonen secured his 2nd shutout of the season stopping 27 shots, helping the Dallas Stars closeout that span 3-1-1. If the Stars are going to win the Central Division or the top seed in the West, they will have to do it without Tyler Seguin. The bright, young star was injured late in the 3rd period in the 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, sustaining a 15 percent cut on his achilles tendon. He is likely to miss the rest of the regular season, but fortunately for the Stars he is expected back for the first round of the Playoffs. Seguin is the 2nd leading scorer on the team with 73 points (33 goals, 40 assists).
While the Dallas Stars continue to surge, the Chicago Blackhawks look to be trending in the wrong direction, going 1-3-2 in their last 6 games. They appeared to be on the right track when they reeled off 12 straight wins from the end of December to mid January, but in the last two months they are 10-11-3. They also haven’t had much success against the Stars this year, only managing 1 win in 4 meetings. It is unclear who will be starting in goal for the Blackhawks, but it appears backup, Scott Darling, will get the nod. Unfortunately, Corey Crawford is still recovering from an upper body injury. Darling has played well in Crawford’s absence, posting a 1.64 G.A.A and .945 SV% in his last 3 starts.
The Stars look to continue their recent success, while the Blackhawks will try and build some momentum heading into the playoffs.The importance of this game goes beyond just competing for a higher seed, as both these teams could very well meet in the playoffs in what could be a Western Conference Finals showdown.