When the Blackhawks welcome the Dallas Stars into the United Center on Tuesday night, they’ll be facing the only Western Conference team they’ve yet to draw a point from. The big news for the Stars is they’re expecting Mike Ribeiro to make his return. Ribeiro has missed the last month after getting struck in the throat by Christopher Higgins’ stick.
Despite no longer being a Western Conference powerhouse, the Stars can still fill up the back of the net. They have nine guys in double-digit goal totals. Loui Eriksson, James Neal, and James Benn give them a nice starting point to build around. Brad Richards is having his best season since coming over from Tampa Bay with 63 points in 56 games. That’s good for 10th in the league just ahead of Patrick Kane.
The Stars don’t boast much of a threat from their backline. Ex-Hawk Stephane Robidas has carved quite a career for himself and has already set career highs in goals (10) and assists (23) this season. 2005 1st round pick Mark Fistric easily leads the team in +/- with a +15. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to see here.
Marty Turco will probably end up getting the start in net. His name has popped up in trade rumors with the Hawks lately. Let’s break it down: 34 years old, a save percentage hovering around 91%, tendency to let in a soft goal, minimal playoff success. I thought the Hawks already had someone like this locked up for the next two years.
Staying on the same theme, Antti Niemi will get the start in goal for the Hawks. This will be the second time in his career he’s played two games in a row. The first time didn’t turn out so well when he didn’t even make it out of the first period in Vancouver. He’ll need a much better showing if he expects to get more than spot starts the rest of this season. Clamoring fans be damned.
Whether Tomas Kopecky gets more top-6 minutes remains to be seen; he certainly hasn’t deserved it. Joel Quenneville was not at practice on Monday because he was in Massachusetts for Brendan Burke’s wake so we won’t know his plans until the first few shifts of the game.
On a side note, the Blackhawks new practice facility, Johnny’s Ice House West, finally opened last week. None of the amenities are finished other than the Blackhawks private locker room. Their media room, workout room, and coaches room are still in the process of being finished. The ice is immaculate, though, and I suppose that’s all that really counts. That, and the Hawks finally have their own practice facility, even if it was 5 months later than scheduled.
Anyone with plans to attend practice should be warned the surrounding neighborhood is a little rough around the edges.