Playoffs Watch Day 8: Hawks-Stars, Crawford, Saad and Kruger news

By: Tristan Angulo

The Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars tonight in a huge divisional matchup that will have major implications in their quest to keep their season alive.

As it stands, the Blackhawks are seven points out of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.  The Stars, who have beaten the Blackhawks in all of their past three matchups, are looking for the season series sweep.  The last time that happened was back in the 2005-2006 season.  The Stars are currently in the first wildcard spot with 66 points.

Apart from the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings, all the teams the Blackhawks are chasing in the bubble race are playing tonight.  The Minnesota Wild (vs. Coyotes), the Colorado Avalanche (vs. Blues) and the Calgary Flames (vs. Devils) are all looking for two points tonight.

Blackhawks lines at practice this morning:

DeBrincat-Toews-Duclair

Hartman-Anisimov-Kane

Saad-Schmaltz-Hinostroza

Sharp-Kampf-Wingels

Keith-Murphy

Kempny-Oesterle

Gustafsson-Seabrook

Anton Forsberg stepped off the ice first this morning.  He will be the starter for tonight, after sitting the last two games.

A win, which could be rendered moot if those other three teams also win their games, can still help these Blackhawks psychologically.  Before tonight, they have dropped three straight games, and have dropped five straight games on United Center ice.

But there are positives.  The Hawks have converted in the power play for two games in a row now.  Patrick Kane’s late goal against the Flames Tuesday night is reminiscent of those come from behind heroics that the Blackhawks have been known for.  Hopefully, tonight’s game will be a catalyst for something positive for this team, who are still grasping for answers as to how they ended up in this hole.

Other tidbits:

Corey Crawford did not hit the ice today and yesterday.  According to the Hawks front office, this is scheduled and not some sort of relapse to his still undisclosed injury.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Blackhawks might be served well to give Brandon Saad a new start somewhere else at the trade deadline.  Saad’s production has been one of this season’s major disappointments.

I do think that Saad is still a premiere power forward, and this year is much like his first year in Columbus, which was followed by a couple of more productive seasons.  Which is not to say that I wouldn’t entertain a trade scenario where a NHL-ready top-4 defenseman would be offered.

As of the writing of this article, Marcus Kruger was placed on waivers by the Carolina Hurricances.  He does still carry one year on his $3 million-per contract, which makes a claim by Stan Bowman highly unlikely.

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