Stars face big test in Blackhawks

The Dallas Stars continue their homestand Saturday and they’ll be facing another tough opponent. After battling the No. 2 team in the Western Conference in the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday, they’ll get the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

“It will be a big test,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas.

Chicago’s start to this season has been well-documented. They went the first 24 games of the season without a regulation loss (21-0-3), putting together the best start in NHL history. The streak ended with a pair of regulation losses, but they got back in the win column Thursday, defeating Columbus 2-1 as they opened a four-game road trip.

“It’s the best team in the league. It’s a fast team,” said Robidas. “They have a lot of skill and they play with a lot of confidence. They’re rolling and we’ve got to be ready for a big match up against them. “

There are plenty of big names in the lineup–  Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp (currently injured) up front and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the backend. And there’s plenty of depth. Goaltender Corey Crawford is having a superb season, and backup Ray Emery is 10-0-0.

“They’re a great team,” said Stars center Derek Roy. “I know Chicago makes you pay for all those mistakes that you make, so we are going to have to be aware with the puck on the ice at the blue lines, chipping pucks out, chipping pucks in. We’ve got to be disciplined; they have a great power play. We’ve got to outwork them and we’ve got to make sure we are ready for this game.”

The Blackhawks are 6th in scoring (3.07), 2nd in goals against (2.07), tops in five-on-five goals for/goals against ratio (1.50), 9th in penalty killing and top five in both shots for and shots against.

“Whatever reason it is, we seem to rise up against our opponents,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow. “The good teams, we pick up our game and (Thursday night against the Ducks) at times we looked great. We’re going to need to look great for 60 minutes against Chicago if we want two points there.”

The Stars have had success recently against top teams. They played well against the Ducks Thursday and picked up a point. They beat a hot Los Angeles Kings team at Staples Center last week. They had a big win in Vancouver last month.

“It’s a challenge. Every time you play those teams it is a good measuring stick to see where we’re at,” said Robidas.

And Saturday the Stars will get a chance to measure themselves against the league’s best right now.

“You could even feel the energy in here today,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after Friday’s optional practice. “We know who our opponent is tomorrow. I thought we competed hard last night, but turned over the puck a little too much. Going into the Chicago game, we know what they’ve done and everybody in the hockey world knows what they’ve done. There’s a little amped up energy here.”

Practice Notes

*C Jamie Benn (wrist) skated with assistant coach Paul Jerrard during Friday’s optional skate. Benn did not shoot any pucks during the session and is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Blackhawks.

*RW Ryan Garbutt injured his hand in Thursday’s game against the Ducks. He is questionable for Saturday’s game.

Nieuwendyk to be honored as member of 20th Anniversary Team

The Stars will honor GM Joe Nieuwendyk as a member of the Dallas Stars 20th Anniversary team at Saturday night’s game against Chicago.

Nieuwendyk played for the Stars from 1995-2002 and ranks fourth in Dallas Stars history in goals (178), fourth in game-winning goals (35), seventh in points (340) and ninth in assists (162).

He was a member of the 1999 Stanley Cup Championship team, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP that year.

Nieuwendyk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

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