NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, January 24th (All times Eastern)
Chicago Blackhawks (3-0-0) at Dallas Stars (2-1-0), 8:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Chicago Blackhawks have already beaten the defending Stanley Cup champions and reigning Central Division winners during their best start to a season in 40 years.
The Blackhawks next try to continue their dominating start on Thursday night in a road matchup with the Dallas Stars.
After winning their division and the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Blackhawks finished third in the Central standings in 2010-11 and slipped to fourth place at season's end last year. Both campaigns ended with first-round playoff exits, but Chicago has looked like one of the top teams in the league early on.
Chicago opened its campaign with a 5-2 victory over the defending-champion Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday, then recorded a 6-4 win at Phoenix the following night. It was the Coyotes that knocked the 'Hawks out of the playoffs last season.
The Blackhawks, opening the season with 10 of 12 on the road, had their home opener on Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues, last season's Central Division winners, and used a quick start to hold on for a 3-2 win.
Patrick Kane scored in the first period, Brent Seabrook had a power-play tally in the second and Viktor Stalberg's third-period goal proved the difference after the Blues scored twice in the final frame. Corey Crawford, though, was good enough down the stretch in net and ended with 32 saves.
"I thought we had great pace to start the game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had some quickness and our transition was very effective early."
At 3-0, the Blackhawks are off to their best start since beginning the 1972-73 campaign with four straight wins.
Chicago plays its next two on the road and visits a Dallas club that has won two of three to begin the season. That includes a 2-1 win on Tuesday that spoiled the Detroit Red Wings' home opener.
Kari Lehtonen came within 3.4 seconds of a shutout and ended with 39 saves.
"It was a good win. It was fairly easy the first 50 minutes I would say, and then Detroit came harder. It was nice to have that two-goal lead at that time. It made it more calm for the whole team. This place is not easy to come to and get wins," noted the netminder.
Both goals came off the stick of Michael Ryder, who led Dallas with 35 goals last season and got his first two of this campaign. The 32-year-old now has 199 career goals and has also logged 199 assists lifetime.
"I knew it was going to take a couple of games to get into it, the timing and everything. It's only one game, but I feel better as each game goes on," said Ryder. "That's a good thing and I've got to make sure I keep doing what I did tonight and keep improving every game."
The Stars have won five of their past seven overall versus the Blackhawks and three of the last four at home in the series.
01/24 10:46:27 ET