Hate Jon Casey. Love the sweater.

Admit it. You haven’t been excited about a Blackhawks/Stars game since Ed Belfour and Brett Hull wore the Star. Even when they had Brad Richards and James Neal they weren’t all that exciting to watch.

So what makes the game tonight different? Well, Dallas (39-27-5) currently occupies the 3 seed in the Western Conference standings with a ever so slim 2 point lead over Phoenix and the Sharks only 3 points behind. With the Blackhawks currently the 6th seed, Dallas would be the opponent in the 1st round.

The Stars had been one of the hottest teams in hockey up until last week. Before their loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday night, they hadn’t dropped a game in regulation since February 19th when they faced Nashville. The Stars are led offensively by players like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder (who may have been the best pickup of the offseason) and Mike Ribero. They also have excellent depth with players such as Steve Ott and Brenden Morrow.  The Stars are a gritty team who can physically wear you down and they possess the offensive weapons to make you pay. In the lineup for Dallas tonight will be old friends Adam Burish and Jake Dowell.

The always formidable Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal for Dallas tonight. While Lehtonen is fantastic, the Dallas defense leaves something to be desired in their own zone (they have several solid offensive defensemen like Sheldon Souray and Alex Goligoski) and one would like to think the Hawks have the  firepower to take advantage of it.

For the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford will get the start in goal after earning a victory on Tuesday night. He played 2 scoreless periods in relief of Ray Emery. Speaking of Emery, he is reportedly sick so Carter Hutton was called up from Rockford and will ride the pine tonight as the backup goaltender.

The Hawks  did get some good news today: Niklas Hjalmarsson will play after leaving Tuesday nights game midway through the 2nd period.

It’s likely the Blackhawks forward lines will stay the same as they were Tuesday night as Jonathan Toews still won’t be in the lineup. He appears to have suffered a setback with his concussion symptoms. Fiddlesticks! Nonetheless, the Hawks should take careful note of what Dallas does defensively because they could very well be facing this team the 2nd week of April.

But the standings are still a shitshow and the Blackhawks still aren’t safe. Tonight they begin a tough stretch of 4 games in 6 days  which will see them face Dallas, Washington, Columbus and Vancouver. The Hawks could use some momentum going into this next week and they have a chance to get it started tonight and avenge their awful loss to this Stars team a few weeks ago.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Go Hawks.