BLACKHAWKS (18-4-4) at STARS (12-9-2)
TV: NHLN-US, CSN-CH, TXA 21
Last 10: Chicago 8-2-0; Dallas 7-3-0
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks won their previous meeting against the Dallas Stars, 5-2 at American Airlines Center on Nov. 9.
Big story: As the Blackhawks near the end of their annual "Circus Trip" with a visit to Dallas, they do so coming off their fourth straight win. They'll be facing a Stars team that is looking equally as explosive these days after rocking the Pacific-leading Anaheim Ducks with five goals in the third period Tuesday night.
Blackhawks: After a week north of the border the Blackhawks are finally heading back to the United States following a sweep of the four Canadian teams in the Western Conference. Chicago's circus trip always a challenge, and this season's seven-game trek is no different, but the Blackhawks have answered the call admirably, winning four straight games since dropping the opener in Colorado on Nov. 19.
Chicago goalie Antti Raanta earned a victory in his first NHL start, a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.
"I thought he played really good," said forward Patrick Kane, who scored the winning goal with 18 seconds left in regulation. "Both goals he didn't really have a chance on and made numerous saves that he's not really expected to make, but at the same time, he made them. They were big for us. He was our best player tonight for sure, 100 percent and nice to see a start like that out of him, especially his first NHL start. I know he was excited and it seems like he has a bright future, for sure."
After visiting Dallas, the Blackhawks will finally wrap up their longest road trip of the season against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
Stars: There may not be a team suffering from tougher luck in the NHL than Dallas. Were the Stars in either division in the Eastern Conference they would be in the thick of the postseason chase, but in the ultra-competitive Central Division they're sitting in last place despite having won 12 of 23 games.
The Stars have had two days off after blitzing the Ducks for five third-period goals in a 6-3 win. Dallas trailed 2-1 entering the third period before scoring four unanswered goals to take control of the game. The win also came on a rare day off for No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen, who has put up impressive numbers while starting 17 of the Stars' 23 games -- and 14 in a row before Tuesday night.
"As I said the day before it's not the physical thing, it's the mental burn that is really tough," coach Lindy Ruff said at practice Wednesday. "You have to prepare mentally every day and the day before a game. Sometimes if you have that two or three days before a game where you are not preparing it keeps you a lot fresher."
Who's hot: Kane's third-period heroics have been par for the course lately. He has eight goals and nine assists during a 12-game point streak. Four of the eight goals have been game-winners. ... Stars center Cody Eakin has four points in his past four games.
Injury report: Forward Bryan Bickell (lower body), goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body) and defenseman Michael Kostka (lower body) are all out for Chicago. ... Center Tyler Seguin has missed the Stars' past two practices due to what the team calls a muscle issue, and Ruff isn't sure he'll be ready to play.
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