By our count, the last time the Dallas Stars defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins was on March 2, 2003. It was a Sunday night sellout crowd at the American Airlines Center and the lone Penguins goal was scored by #66, Mario Lemieux. [Box Score] Meetings between the two teams have been infrequent and lopsided since then. Most recently Pittsburgh dismantled the Stars in March of last season 6-3 at Mellon Arena with Kari Lehtonen taking the loss.
Mario Lemieux won't be on the ice this time to see what will hopefully be the Stars first win in this series in seven years but Sidney Crosby will. The DMN says Sid has seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in three career games against the Stars. The last time the Pens visited the AAC (2008-2009) it was to close out a six game home stand for the Stars that ended with a dominant 4-1 Pittsburgh win. The Stars need a win tonight to help close their current six game home stand at .500 on Friday when Phoenix comes to town.
Pittsburgh has enjoyed success on the road this year with a 4-1-1 record away from their new building. They've been off since Saturday, as have the Stars, practicing in North Texas. They'll get Malkin and Letang back from minor injuries and both teams should be chomping at the bit to get this one started at 7:30pm CDT on FS Southwest.
More after the jump....
Dallas was able to snap a three game home losing streak on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres by using a somewhat unexpected start in net by Andrew Raycroft. The veteran netminder was flawless in a 4-0 shutout, the clubs first of the season despite strong play from Kari Lehtonen.
Kari has now had seven full days of rest and practice to get ready for this one and will surely want to atone for a poor showing in Pittsburgh last spring. (A 6-3 Penguin win.)
Everything else is status quo for the Stars heading into this one. Remarkable health (knock on wood) has graced the team early and all hands will be on deck for this one. Lines are expected to be the same as they have throughout the home stand...
Jamie Benn will at least start off on Ribeiro's line but I would not be surprised if at some point he plays with Ott and Wandell to revive that chemistry that has shown sparks of great promise this season.
If possible, the Penguin power play has been even worse than the Stars. A 12.9% mark for Pittsburgh and a 14.0% mark for the Stars make this game a prime candidate for someone to break out with the man advantage a little bit as low percentages like that are not sustainable all year long.
The Penguins boast the much better PK, however, at 85% (compare to 69% for Dallas) so if anyone should break out on the PP, it might be Sid and the gang.
The big story for Pittsburgh is their goaltender controversy. You know Fleury, of course, but do you know Brent Johnson? Johnson has a 5-0-1 record, most recently shutting out the Hurricanes on 33 shots and he's the hottest thing going in the NHL right now statistically. Expect to see him in goal tomorrow night brimming with confidence.
See Pensburgh for more: Fleury or Johnson?
After Dallas the Penguins travel to Anaheim and Phoenix where we will be rooting for them vehemently to take some points away from the Stars division foes.