NHL on NBCSN: Top prospect Teravainen, Hawks face red hot Stars

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars at the United Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Stars were one of the most intriguing teams going into the season thanks to their offseason acquisitions of forwards Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. The prospect of that duo playing in the same lineup as Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn made Dallas an exciting team. But are the Stars a serious contender given their questionable defense?

They limped out of the gate with a 9-12-5 record, but started to click in early December and have consequently won nine of their last 11 games. A key factor in that has been goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s solid play, but as expected it is the Stars’ offense that has remained the story. Dallas has scored at least six goals in three of its last six contests and outscored its last two opponents, Arizona and Minnesota, 13-1.

What makes that recent outburst particularly impressive is that the Stars’ typical heavy hitters – Seguin, Benn, and Spezza – haven’t been leading the charge. Instead, the Stars’ attack has been fairly balanced lately.

“That’s a winning recipe. Every line is playing so well. One through four, they’re all playing the same way,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the team’s website. “And I think that’s the one thing when you’re coaching – when all of your lines are doing the right things and all the lines are producing, it’s a winning recipe. Tonight was just another indication that every line went out there, created opportunities, defended well and got rewarded for it.”

Dallas has faced some strong teams over its 9-2-0 stretch, but Chicago will be a big test. The Blackhawks have already beaten Dallas twice this season, including their decisive 6-2 victory on Nov. 16. If Dallas is truly a different team now, perhaps that will come out tonight. Then again, Chicago is a tough opponent under any circumstances.

It has a deep, skilled roster full of players who already have their name on the Stanley Cup. Some of them multiple times. Amid that veteran roster though, there will also be Teuvo Teravainen, a 20-year-old with immense potential that’s looking to make an impression in his NHL season debut.

He played in three games with Chicago in 2013-14 and has spent the 2014-15 campaign honing his skills in the minors. An injury to Kris Versteeg has presented Teravainen with an opportunity to show he’s ready to play at this level.

“I’m really excited,” Teravainen told CSN Chicago. “It’s good to be back here. It’s been my goal to be here this year and I’ve been working so hard all summer and now in the season and I’m happy to be here.”

This game will be a key match for the Stars, but they certainly don’t have a monopoly when it comes to the importance of this contest.