DALLAS (SPORTS NETWORK) – The Dallas Stars’ four-game losing streak has cost them sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division. They will try to get back on track tonight, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center.
The Stars are 0-3-1 since the All-Star break and enter tonight tied with San Jose atop the crowded Pacific Division. Dallas and San Jose, which plays tonight in New Jersey, are tied at 66 points, leaving them just one point ahead of Phoenix and five in front of last-place Los Angeles.
Dallas was able to record a point for the first time in four games with an overtime loss to visiting Phoenix on Wednesday. It was still the Stars’ sixth setback in seven games. Radim Vrbata scored on the power play just 1:13 into the extra session to give Phoenix the 3-2 win over the Stars.
Jamie Langenbrunner was called for tripping with 19 seconds left in regulation and Phoenix carried the advantage into the extra session. Keith Yandle passed from the high slot to the inside right circle for Vrbata, who stick-handled the puck past a diving defender and snapped a wrister by Kari Lehtonen for the win.
Brad Richards had a goal and an assist while Steve Ott also scored for the Stars, who have dropped four straight for the first time since losing seven in a row from March 17-30, 2009. Lehtonen stopped 32 shots.
“It was a tight game and we play a lot of those against Phoenix,” said Richards. “We’re gonna have some that go our way, then others where we battle hard and come out on the wrong end.”
Dallas has lost its last two home games and is 16-7-5 as the host this season.
The Blackhawks ended a two-game slide in their last game, posting a 4-1 victory Wednesday night in Edmonton. Chicago is the defending Stanley Cup champion, but if the season ended today the Blackhawks would be three points out of a playoff spot in the West.
Corey Crawford made 23 saves and Patrick Kane scored twice to help the Blackhawks earn the recent win over the struggling Oilers.
Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks, who had dropped four of their previous five contests.
“Good to get a win. We needed that one, obviously,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “Still a lot of things we need to get better at. We did some good things tonight. Once we get our power play going and we get some bounces going our way, we can maybe open some games up and get a little more confidence in the offensive zone.”
The Blackhawks will not have winger Marian Hossa on the ice tonight, as he is currently battling a case of the flu. Hossa has gone three straight games without a point and did not make the trip to Dallas.
However, Chicago should have newly-acquired forward Michael Frolik in the lineup tonight. Frolik, who will turn 23 years of age on Feb. 17, came over to Chicago in a five-player deal with Florida on Wednesday. The Blackhawks also acquired goaltender Alexander Salak, and sent forwards Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan to the Panthers.
Frolik is in his third NHL season and has posted eight goals and 21 assists through 52 games. He netted 21 goals in each of his first two seasons after the Panthers selected him 10th overall in the 2006 draft.
Chicago is 2-2-0 on a six-game road trip that is set to end Saturday in Phoenix. The Blackhawks are 12-9-4 as the visiting club this season.
The Blackhawks and Stars have split a pair of games this year, but tonight’s tilt marks the first encounter in Big D. Chicago has taken seven of 10 overall in the series and has won three out of four in Dallas.