Blackhawks host Stars on Sunday evening

The last time that the Blackhawks and the Stars played, it was opening night in Dallas - a 3-2 shootout win for Chicago on October 9th.

It was also one of the rare games where the opponent outshot the Blackhawks this season.

Both teams currently sit just outside the wild card cutoff, with Chicago (19) a few points ahead of the Stars (16) in the surprising Central Division. We'll say surprising mostly for two reasons: 1) even with Pekka Rinne's healthy return and a new coach behind the bench, nobody expected Nashville to be doing this well so early in the season; and 2) nobody expected Winnipeg to be sitting at 3rd in the Central, ahead of Chicago, Dallas, and Minnesota. (Colorado has regressed as expected, so that's not a surprise.)

Eastern teams certainly won't envy the West this year. In the East, there's some clear-cut teams leading their respective divisions (Tampa Bay, Montreal, Pittsburgh) and then there's a middle pack that has plenty of time to jockey for positioning between now and April.

In the West, however, winning points - and more importantly, closing out Conference and Division rivals in regulation to avoid "freebie" points - is going to be vital all season long.

Both Chicago (9-7-1) and Dallas (6-7-4) have struggled to find their best performances so far this season. Both teams are coming into Sunday's game off a loss.

Tyler Seguin has doing particularly well for the Stars this season (12G/10A), and leading his team in possession. The Blackhawks have committed an awful lot of sloppy turnovers as of late, and will want to watch themselves against the persistent Stars.

The Stars have done well on the road so far this season (5-3-0), mainly behind Kari Lehtonen. The Blackhawks will really need to play a focused game on Sunday.

Time: 6:00PM CST
Viewing info: WGN Chicago, TVA, Fox Sports-SW
Radio: WGN 720 Chicago; 1320AM Dallas

    
QUICK SHOTS

Brad Richards will play in his 1,000th NHL game on Sunday night. He played with the Stars from 2008-2011.

Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is expected to return to the lineup on Sunday night.

ROSTER NOTES

Joakim Nordstrom and goalie Scott Darling were both recalled from the Rockford Icehogs this weekend. Nordstrom's recall isn't surprising, considering that the Blackhawks are heading out on their annual "circus trip" after this game, and he helps round out the roster.

The Darling move is more of a surprise, but likely to be some cap space wriggling. As Antti Raanta was sent down to the NHL in Darling's place, he should be expected to get several starts with the IceHogs while the Blackhawks are on the road. As he has not had an NHL start since 10/25, this will be some valuable play time for him. Peter Regin was also sent down to the AHL.

Dallas announced this weekend that Valeri Nichushkin will undergo hip surgery, and is expected to miss 4 months.

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