Stars-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

Even without their star captain, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to find ways to win.

The Blackhawks will be without Jonathan Toews for a second straight contest as they try to match a season high with a fifth consecutive victory Thursday night against the Dallas Stars at the United Center.

With Toews scratched because of an upper-body injury, Chicago (33-21-7) beat rival and NHL-leader Detroit 2-1 at home Tuesday for its fourth straight victory following a nine-game losing streak. Rookie Jimmy Hayes scored his fifth goal, Marcus Kruger added the winner early in the third period and Corey Crawford made 31 saves.

"In 82 games, you're going to play without some players on any given night,'' forward Patrick Sharp said. "Losing (Toews) was big, but we rallied around each other.''

The team leader with 29 goals, Toews could be ready to play on a trip west to Los Angeles and Anaheim that starts Saturday.

"Tazer is progressing, he's day to day" coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website.

The upper-body issue isn't Toews' only problem. He was involved in a minor one-car accident on the way to the United Center on Thursday, though he didn't suffer an injury.

After rallying to beat Detroit, Chicago should feel confident even without one of their top players in the lineup. The Blackhawks have improved on the defensive end of late, allowing five goals during their four-game winning streak after giving up an average of 4.2 during the nine-game skid.

"We have to keep it going," defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Chicago hopes to do that while trying for a second straight victory over Dallas (30-26-4), which had its four-game winning streak over the Blackhawks snapped with a 5-2 loss at the United Center on Oct. 8. The Blackhawks have won seven of eight overall at home, and eight of 11 against the Stars in Chicago.

Though Toews will watch, Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could be back after missing the last seven games with a concussion.

Sharp, who has two goals and three assists in the last four games, has two with four assists in his last five versus Dallas at the United Center.

Crawford has a 1.25 goals-against average during Chicago's four-game winning streak. That has followed a personal 0-4-1 stretch where he posted a 4.35 GAA. He stopped 19 shots in October to improve to 2-1-0 with a 2.70 GAA against the Stars at home.

While the Blackhawks are focused on improving their playoff position in the West, Dallas is simply trying to move back into the picture. In the hunt for the conference's final postseason spot, the Stars have dropped five of seven but are coming off a 3-0 win at Montreal on Tuesday.

Dallas has not won two straight contests since posting consecutive victories over Anaheim around the All-Star break.

"We've got to get some kind of consistency with winning and I think that point is probably right now," defenseman Alex Goligoski told the Stars' official website.

Former Canadien Mike Ribeiro scored his 13th of the season, rookie Ryan Garbutt added the first of his career and Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots for his second shutout this season.

"It was a big game for us," said Ribeiro, who has two goals and three assists in the last five games.

Lehtonen is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA versus Chicago. He made 37 saves in Dallas' 2-1 home win over the Blackhawks on Oct. 7.