After watching Detroit and Calgary pull farther away on Friday night, and having lost their first two post Olympic games by a collective score of 11-2, the Dallas Stars will try to right the ship: In a day game. On the road. In Pittsburgh. Against the defending Stanley Cup champions, with the 4th highest point total in the league, and trade deadline improvements. Stop me when you've heard enough, really...
The Stars have lost to the Penguins in each of the last three seasons. Pittsburgh visited the American Airlines Center in March of last year and beat Dallas 4-1. The Stars last victory over the Penguins came on March 2nd, 2003. Sidney Crosby wasn't in the league yet. In fact, he was 15 years old.
This early afternoon affair marks the beginning of a perilous three game road trip that will see the Stars face Crosby, Ovechkin, and Ryan Miller in 5 days time. As of this writing, they represent the #1, #2 and #3 seeds from the Eastern Conference. The Stars are 2-1-1 in Saturday afternoon games this season. Several times, mostly before the New Year, Dallas surprised fans and opponents alike with big wins against superior clubs (San Jose, Chicago, New Jersey, Detroit, etc). There would be no better time to make a similar reprisal than this afternoon, because time has very nearly run out.
Follow the jump for a closer look at the game, prospective lines, and an injury update....
Kari Lehtonen will make his first official start in a Dallas uniform on Saturday, though it's not his debut. He played 38 minutes in relief of Marty Turco on Thursday night, allowing 2 goals on 16 shots in the losing effort.
Speaking of Marty Turco, he did not return to the bench after being pulled by Crawford when the game got to 4-1. The Stars Coach spoke with the Morning News about the absence:
"It is unusual. We addressed it this morning,'' Crawford said. ``Nobody likes to be pulled, and especially with all of the other things (Turco participated in an award ceremony before the game that honored him for playing in his 500th NHL game). I don't think he was trying to do anything, but I think how you do things and how everybody views it, whether it's our young players, or whether it's our team in general, we all have to stick together. We've addressed it and we'll go forward. I don't believe for a minute that he was trying to draw attention from the team. He was probably just upset with his own performance.''
I'll tell you what's unusual: A North American franchise telling it like it is. We already know that if it were the Mavericks, they'd be telling people it's a "stomach bug" or something, but Marty Turco gets thrown under the bus and rightfully so. In Marty's defense, it was a tough night all around to get pulled.
James Neal, RFA to be, has been nearly invisible in these two games back from the break, and subsequently might be losing his spot on the top line temporarily. Lines were reported at practice to be something like this:
Mike Modano didn't practice, but not that's unusual. These combinations will change the instant adversity hits, of course. In the mean time it looks as though it's up to Jere Lehtinen to run around cleaning up messes if he plays with those two young up and comers. Without Ott on his line, Benn will be on the hook for his faceoffs, and on the road, the other team gets to choose who takes those draws against him. Keep an eye on the faceoff #'s tomorrow.
SB Nation friend Pensburgh looks at a particular hardship in Pittsburgh these days....
Alexei Ponikarovsky has his visa issues cleared up and is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow when the Penguins play the Dallas Stars. Veteran Bill Guerin missed the game with minor back spasms and his status is unknown, but it doesn't seem like a long-term injury. Which means the Pittsburgh Penguins face the prospect of having a forward that dressed last night becoming a spectator in the very near future.
It's a good problem to have: too many players that are playing well and only a finite number of jerseys to hand out. But a good problem is still a problem. Injuries or ineffectiveness could change the story in a heartbeat, but for now let's look at the candidates to become healthy scratches.
Hey guys...if you have extra bodies that are "playing well", we could take them off your hands. Just sayin.
Head over to Pensburgh to check out their excellent coverage. The Penguins have won two in a row, and enter the game with points in 8 of their last 10 games. Seemingly like everyone the Stars run into these days.
Dallas: Brian Sutherby (shoulder) is out.
Pittsburgh: Bill Guerin missed their last game with back spasms, but told BaD radio this week that he would most likely be in the lineup on Saturday.