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Reply To: NHL • Friday Service Plays • 3/11/16

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Preview: Chicago at Dallas

When: 8:30 PM ET, Friday, March 11, 2016
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas

The three-team tango atop the Central Division will continue on Friday when the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Dallas Stars with sole possession of first place on the line. The Stars will continue their five-game homestand against St. Louis, which moved to within one point of the top two clubs with a 3-2 shootout win over Chicago on Wednesday.

Veteran forward Jason Spezza scored his fourth goal in as many contests and seventh in his last eight on Tuesday, but Dallas suffered its eighth loss in 11 outings (3-5-3) with a 4-3 overtime setback to Montreal. Kari Lehtonen struggled against the Canadiens, but made a season-high 44 saves as the Stars posted a 4-2 win over the Blackhawks on Feb. 11 for their second win in three encounters with their division rival. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews set up a pair of goals in that contest and extended his current point streak to five games (three goals, two assists) on Wednesday by setting up a tally against the Blues. The 27-year-old is expected to compete on Friday despite suffering a mild hip-flexor injury in the loss.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN Southwest (Dallas), NHL Network

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (41-21-6): Marian Hossa, who scored a short-handed goal in Chicago’s 5-1 win over Dallas on Feb. 6, is expected to take the morning skate on Friday to determine if he’ll return from a nine-game absence due to a lower-body injury. “You want to make sure you’re really ready to return and not have to think about, ‘What if? What if?’ Today was better and tomorrow’s another day, so we’ll see,” Hossa told CSNChicago.com. Rookie Artemi Panarin scored versus St. Louis for his fifth point (three goals, two assists) in four contests and set up two tallies against the Stars this season.

ABOUT THE STARS (40-20-8): Dallas’ depleted defense absorbed another hit as coach Lindy Ruff admitted that Jason Demers will miss at least six weeks with a shoulder injury. “I’m taking it week by week,” Demers told the Dallas Morning News on Thursday as his right arm rested in a sling. “I’m just going to do everything I can to get back. It’s just a question of where we are in the season. If there is a way, I’ll figure it out.” Fellow blue-liners John Klingberg and Jordie Benn are nursing lower-body injuries to boot, prompting the Stars to lean a bit on recently recalled rookie defenseman and Blackhawks prospect Stephen Johns in addition to former Chicago blue-liner Johnny Oduya.

OVERTIME

1. Dallas C Tyler Seguin has been held off the scoresheet in a season-high five straight games.

2. Chicago C Artem Anisimov has recorded one goal and three assists in his last 12 contests since posting those exact totals in his team’s win over the Stars on Feb. 6.

3. Dallas LW Patrick Sharp is nursing a lower-body injury and has been ruled out versus his former team.

PREDICTION: Stars 4, Blackhawks 3