Blackhawks kick off vital January point stretch with game vs Stars

The Blackhawks (25-11-2, 52 pts, 1st/Central) welcome the Dallas Stars (17-14-5, 39 pts, 6th/Central) to the United Center on Sunday night at 7pm; the game will be broadcast on NBCSN nationally, and WGN in Chicago.

Chicago will be coming off its disappointing loss in the Winter Classic vs the Capitals; the Stars have a Saturday night game versus the Wild at home. Prior to Saturday's game, the Stars are on a 3-game win streak.

Finnish phenom Teuvo Teräväinen was called up from the Rockford IceHogs after a hand injury took Kris Versteeg out of the lineup in the Winter Classic. Teräväinen has 6 goals and 17 assists in 33 games for the IceHogs this season.

Teräväinen played three games for the Blackhawks last season, and he got one of the longest looks during training camp. Ultimately, however, he was sent to the AHL to further develop his game. After team practice today, Teräväinen said he was excited to be back up to the NHL, but that he would do his best to focus on his game, not the fan and media hype surrounding his call-up.

While the Stars have one of the league's top scorers, Tyler Seguin (23G, 21A), on their top line, they're 7th in the league for scoring (2.94 G/G), they're 28th in the league for goals against (3.25 GA/G). After predictions had them challenging for tops in the Central, they're instead six points out of a playoff berth, although they have four games in hand over at least one of the teams (CGY) ahead of them.

The Blackhawks will have to be careful to avoid hitting the cruise control button as they plunge into the January doldrums between the holidays and the All-Star Game. They'll be playing six of the nine games before the ASG at home, all but one against Western Conference teams, and six of the nine game are also against Central Division teams. It will be a vital stretch of points, and the Blackhawks should seek to minimize any games going to extra time.