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W2W4: Blackhawks at Stars

10/9/2014

DALLAS -- The Chicago Blackhawks open the 2014-15 season on Thursday. Here's what to watch for when they face the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center:

• The Central will likely be the NHL's toughest division again. The Blackhawks ended up in the Western Conference finals last season, but finished third in the Central and went just 13-13-3 against division opponents. The Blackhawks went 4-1-0 against the Stars and 3-0-0 at the American Airlines Center last season. Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks with 10 points, including six goals and four assists, against the Stars last season.

Brad Richards makes his regular-season debut for the Blackhawks. He will center the third line with Bryan Bickell and Ben Smith as his wings. The Blackhawks' other lines are Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane, Daniel Carcillo-Marcus Kruger-Jeremy Morin.

• Blackhawks rookie defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk will play in first NHL game. He played at the University of New Hampshire last season. He will be paired with Niklas Hjamarsson. The Blackhawks' others defenseman pairings are Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya-David Rundblad.

• The Blackhawks will be without forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Michal Rozsival. Versteeg is expected to miss about three weeks with a lower-body injury. Quenneville said Thursday there hadn't been any further discussion about placing Versteeg on the long-term injured reserve and recalling another forward. The Blackhawks have 12 healthy forwards on their roster. Quenneville said Rozsival skated again on Thursday. He's been out the past week with an upper-body injury.

• The Stars' major addition in the offseason was forward Jason Spezza. He was excited to get going and open the season against the Blackhawks. "Well, it's a great test and it can give you great momentum," Spezza said after the morning skate. "It's going to kind of put you up against one of the top teams in the league. It's a good measuring stick for you right off the bat for sure."

• The Blackhawks' last lost a season-opening game in 2011, falling 2-1 to the Stars 2-1 on the road to begin the 2011-12 season. The Blackhawks are 37-31-1-2 all-time in season-opening games.