Blackhawks, Stars set to renew rivalry

DALLAS -- Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars head into their Saturday evening matchup at American Airlines Center fresh off 4-3 results on Thursday.

But it's the Stars (21-21-10), who lost 4-3 to Winnipeg to drop Dallas' record within the Central Division to 8-10-4, desperately needing these two points.

"Yeah, it'd be huge (to end this homestand with a win)," Stars defenseman Stephen Johns, who was traded from Chicago in summer 2015, said.

"Obviously, one of the best teams in the NHL is coming in tomorrow and it's always fun playing against them. It means a lot, obviously a division game. We're trying to get as many points as we can here, especially at home, and end this homestand on a good note and go on the road trip with a really good feeling."

Dallas is 2-2-1 on its longest homestand of the season, six games. But on Saturday, the Stars will hit the ice without one of their top offensive cogs in veteran center Jason Spezza, who left the loss to Winnipeg after taking a third-period hit from the Jets' Adam Lowry.

The good news is that Spezza doesn't have a concussion, but he's still going to miss games, the latest chapter in a Stars season that has been largely characterized by injuries.

"He's going to miss some time," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Friday after an optional workout. "He's got an upper-body injury. Right now, we don't really have a timeframe on it, but it's more than days."

Spezza had been skating on Dallas' top line alongside the Stars' dynamic duo of Jamie Benn, who had three points in the loss to Winnipeg on Thursday, and Tyler Seguin, the team's lone representative at last weekend's 2017 NHL All-Star Game.

One of the options to replace Spezza might have been veteran forward Jiri Hudler, but he missed a good portion of the season due to illness and has recently been out of the lineup again.

"Well, he (Hudler) just missed the last two days with a family leave, hasn't skated, so now he's got himself in a tough situation again," Ruff said. "It's a decision we're going to have to make. Give him a skate today and go from there, but I think the illness put him way behind the eight ball."

Dallas is 14-8-6 at home this season, but the Stars have yet to defeat the Blackhawks (0-2-1).

As for the Chicago (31-17-5), it is now 13-10-1 on the road after a 4-3 win at Arizona on Thursday.

And even though the Blackhawks, who are 10-8-1 against the Central, left the desert with two points, there were several sticking points for coach Joel Quenneville from the win, like Chicago taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission only to see it be a 4-3 contest in favor of the visitors after 40 minutes.

"I thought we played a great first period, had a great start to the game, had everything going and you give up a 5-on-3, almost get through it and it got them going," Quenneville said postgame. "I like how we stabilized the game in the third period."

That third period of which Quenneville speaks of was one where Chicago kept Arizona off the scoreboard to hold on for the one-goal win.

Besides the Blackhawks' strong third-period performance, another big positive for their veteran coach, who has led them to three Stanley Cup titles, was the Chicago power play, which finished 2-for-4 against the Coyotes with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane delivering power-play goals.

"Power play tonight did some nice things," Quenneville said. "Great shot by (Kane), Hossa with speed in the middle. Did some good things in the zone as well, good entries, nice to get that going. I think that really helped us get off to a great start in the game."

While Dallas is finishing a six-game homestand, Chicago will play game three of a six-game road trip on Saturday.

The Blackhawks did not practice Friday.
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