Dallas Stars (+125) at Chicago Blackhawks (-150, 5 o/u)
The Chicago Blackhawks (42-24-7, 91 pts) hope to remain within reach of the Dallas Stars (43-21-9, 95 pts) when they meet in a Central Division showdown tonight at the United Center in Chicago (8:30 PM Eastern).
Unlike the rest of the Western Conference’s top contenders, Chicago has hit the skids at the worst possible time. The Blackhawks have lost six of their last eight games, including a 3-2 (SO) setback to the Wild on Sunday.
The recent rough patch has dropped the Blackhawks to third in the Central, four points back of Dallas and two back of the Blues.
With goalie Corey Crawford suffering from an upper-body injury, backup Scott Darling is set to make his fourth straight start tonight. Missing Crawford – who’s having a Vezina-caliber season – won’t help Chicago dig out of its slump, but goaltending hasn’t been the problem of late. Darling has a 1.64 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in three straight starts, including a 4-0 shutout win over the Jets last Friday.
The backup is likely to be tested a great deal more tonight. Not only does Dallas own the best record in the Western Conference, but they have won five of their last eight (5-0-2) and have scored an NHL-high 236 goals on the year.
Unfortunately for Dallas, the team’s second-leading scorer, Tyler Seguin (33 goals, 73 points) has been sidelined three to four weeks with an injured Achilles.
Tonight will be the fifth and last time the Blackhawks and the Stars meet during the regular season. Dallas leads the series 3-1 have won three straight in Chicago. There’s value on the Stars’ moneyline.
Pick: Dallas (+125).
(Photo credit: BagoGames (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).]