Blackhawks down Stars 5-2; prepare to face Oilers on Sunday
For the first period in Dallas, it felt like the Blackhawks were busy shooting themselves in the foot with a constant parade to the penalty box.
However, despite taking six penalties in this game, Chicago actually made progess on their penalty kill, going 6-for-6, which was good enough to jump from 30th to 27th in league PK standings.
Cody Eakin started the scoring in tonight's game, notching a goal for the Stars 6:10 into the first. Marian Hossa would continue his recent hot streak by opening the scoring for the Blackhawks with just under four minutes left in the period.
Tyler Seguin pulled Dallas ahead with a goal 6:54 into the second, but the lead was short-lived as Jonathan Toews tied up the game once more 3:25 later.
The Stars would then give up three unanswered goals: Patrick Kane put in the go-ahead goal on the Blackhawks power play, late in the second period. Dallas would manage to prevent Chicago scoring again for another twenty minutes, but Marian Hossa scored on a breakaway with 1:41 left in the third.
Niklas Hjalmarsson wrapped up the scoring when he hit the empty net with a short-handed goal while clearing the puck from the Blackhawks' crease with 1:07 left in the game.
Up until the second half of the third, it wasn't an extraordinary game for the Hawks; the only stats they were ahead of the Stars were in blocked shots (21 vs 12) and giveaways (4 vs 17). They dominated the faceoff dot for most of the game, but the Stars evened that stat out in the final period.
Patrick Sharp had an excellent evening, having an assist on four of the Blackhawks' five goals. The fourth line of Brandon Bollig (11:51), Marcus Krüger (16:36), and Ben Smith (11:53) was very noticeable tonight, especially during the third period.
Bollig in particular has changed his game this year: he's dropping the gloves far less, his TOI has increased more than a minute per game so far over last season, and he's solidly in the + for +/-. Additionally, he has already scored twice this season after zero goals in 25 games last year, and is getting some time on the PK.
Corey Crawford (1 GAA/.969 sv%) had the win tonight; Kari Lehtonen (4 GAA/.867 sv%) took the loss.
Three stars of the game:
1) Patrick Sharp (4 assists) - CHI
2) Marian Hossa (2 goals) - CHI
3) Cody Eakin (1 goal) - DAL
The Blackhawks (11-2-4) travel back to Chicago to face the Edmonton Oilers (4-12-2) on Sunday night at the United Center.
These two teams could not be further apart in terms of performance; Chicago is second in the Central, and Edmonton is in the bottom three of the entire league. The Oilers are finishing up a four-game road trip, and are coming off Saturday's 4-2 loss in Philadelphia. Two of the Oilers' wins have been OT/SO wins against teams struggling as much as they are, New Jersey and Florida.
The Oilers have been struggling across the board, but defensive ability has been a particular weakness for them. Not surprisingly, few of their players are on the positive side of the +/- column.
Additionally, the Oilers have been struggling in goal. Devan Dubnyk, who is supposed to be their primary starter, is 3-7-1, with an .878 sv% and 3.82 GAA.
But the Blackhawks should not assume that Edmonton's defensive struggles will lead to an easy win. The Oilers have proven in the past - repeatedly - that they can outscore the Blackhawks to the point where the goaltending becomes almost redundant. Chicago will have to be on their toes Sunday night.
The team made news this weekend when it was announced they were in the process of signing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract. It is likely that Bryzgalov would be sent to the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City for a conditioning stint before returning full-time to the NHL.
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has not announced his starting goalie for Sunday yet, but traditionally, Q has usually put players in for their first game back against their old team. Nikolai Khabibulin played for the Oilers for several seasons before re-signing with Chicago this year.
Honoring Veterans: For the fourth time, the Blackhawks will wear special camouflage jerseys during warmups. After the game, the players will autograph the jerseys and they will be sold via auction to benefit the USO of Illinois. According to the team press release, the team will also "host an official 'Salute to Deploying Troops' ceremony on-ice for 20 members of the United States Army who are returning to Afghanistan for another tour of duty," which will take place during the first intermission.
Injury report: Oilers: Steve MacIntyre (knee), Corey Potter (back), Ryan Hamilton (knee), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Justin Schultz (groin), & goalie Richard Bachman (lower body) are all on injured reserve. Blackhawks: Michael Kostka (foot), Brad Mills (lower body), Michal Handzus (upper body).
Game info: Sunday, November 10, 6:30 p.m. CDT at the United Center
Watch on: Chicago on WGN; Edmonton on SNET-EDM; Canada on SNET-W. Radio feed via WGN 720 AM.