For the first time in nearly 14 months, the cheers during the National Anthem at the United Center will be coming from real-life fans, as the Chicago Blackhawks will welcome supporters back to the building for their final homestand of the regular season.
The Blackhawks, the last U.S.-based NHL team to allow fans back into their home arena, are out of the playoff hunt, as are the Dallas Stars, but they will hope to give those fans something to cheer about as they take the ice on Sunday.
Sunday will see a slightly different Blackhawks team, as several key players will not be on the ice for the contest. Defenseman Duncan Keith, who was involved in a collision with a linesman during Thursday’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, will miss the final two games of the regular season, as head coach Jeremy Colliton said that the veteran blue liner has been placed in the NHL’s concussion protocol.
Forward Brett Connolly, also injured during Thursday’s game, will also miss the final two regular season games, as he too is in the concussion protocol.
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Young forward Kirby Dach, who came back this season after suffering a fractured wrist during a World Junior Championships exhibition game in late December, has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to pain in the scar tissue surrounding that injury.
Even still, Blackhawks fans will hope to see some good hockey on Sunday. Red-hot Alex DeBrincat, who has 29 goals in 50 games this season, will hope to climb the NHL leaderboard in scoring, as he currently sits in fifth place in goals scored so far this season. He has a five-game goal streak on the line in this one, with six goals and an assist in his last five contests.
Patrick Kane, currently in seventh place in the NHL in scoring with 64 points, could aim to sneak back into the top five, as he’s currently just one point behind Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Toronto’s Auston Matthews in that category.
Unfortunately for the Stars, they come into Sunday’s game with nothing to play for, as they were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday. Joe Pavelski has continued to be a strong presence in the team’s lineup, with 24 goals and 26 assists in 54 games, and he’ll hope to finish the season with a flourish as the Stars’ Western Conference title defense comes to an end.
Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. Sunday.