Star Turn: Stars at Hawks Preview
Whatever went on with Toews, the Hawks have no choice but to try and win their second straight without their captain. However, the Dallas Stars are in the category of teams the Hawks can, and should, beat without Toews.
The Stars are in a goofy position. They are only two point out of the last playoff spot in the West. They have a couple important players who are injured, their top center Jamie Benn and captain Brenden Morrow. It could be argued that their return would put them over the top in the race for eighth. Making the playoffs is always a team's goal.
But the Stars have lots of pieces that teams ahead of them want. And in reality, the best that the Stars can hope for this season is sneaking the 8th spot and then getting slapped upside the head in the first round. That doesn't really get you any closer to winning the Cup in the coming years. Maybe the Stars know this, maybe they don't.
It would be hard to justify to a dwindling fanbase that a team in the thick of the playoff race, when they haven't seen a playoff game in four years, decided to chuck it before it was far from being decided. But that's why GMs are paid a handsome sum, to make hard decisions.
As for what's on the ice tonight in white, it isn't much. Without Benn and Morrow, the Stars only have one dangerous line. That's the top one which consists of center Mike Ribeiro and wingers Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder. Ribeiro is a name being mentioned as trade bait, and a possibility for the Hawks. He can be a gifted playmaker, but he can be a total defensive flake, as well as an attitude problem. Quenneville would probably knife him by the end of March if he were required.
After that line, the Stars are just a bunch of grunts and hacks who will try and work their way into opportunities. Don't make any mistakes or get stupid against that part of the team, the Hawks should skate away clean.
Add to that the Hawks will get a look at the Stars' backup, Richard Bachman, and this should be smelling of roses easily. But it never works like that, especially against a desperate team like Dallas.
For the Hawks, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return tonight from his concussion. He'll most likely be paired with Sami Lepisto on the third pairing, as Quenneville isn't likely to want to break the mojo fo the top two pairings that have only surrendered five goals in the last four games. Corey Crawford gets to try and roll more.