The Dallas Stars are playing with house money tonight.
At 3-0-0 on their first major road swing, this time through the Eastern Conference, and a share of first place in the Western Conference as of late Tuesday night, things are going quite well. A loss to make it a 3-1-0 trip would not be seen as much of a disappointment.
Yet you get the sense these Stars feel they can do even more.
And they should strive to. Four of the top seven teams in the West come from the Central division. The Stars share their lead with two other teams - the Predators and St. Louis Blues. Only excellence will keep them where they want to be.
At this early stage in the game four points separates the Stars from 10th in the conference, and recent years have shown that kind of margin to be the case deep into the season. Two points tonight helps keep the pressure squarely on the shoulders of the competition, which is the place they want it to set.
The Stars got away with one on opening night in allowing 37 shots to a very dangerous looking Penguin lineup. Tonight Pittsburgh gets a chance for revenge in their own barn, and they've won three straight coming into this one.
Puck drops early tonight just after 6pm here in Dallas. Please join us for our gameday thread on the site for lively in-game discourse.
The story for the Stars continues to be the goaltending. Dallas is scoring as it did last season- in bunches, powered by Seguin and Benn, and often. The difference this season so far has come in the form of the two-headed monster in the pipes.
Kari Lehtonen posted stellar numbers in winning three straight for Lindy Ruff at the outset of this road trip. So naturally Antti Niemi was put into the lineup, and stole a game for Dallas on Tuesday.
Those two points in-hand, Ruff is free to go whichever way he likes this evening while playing the "balanced workload" card- And it looks like he'll go back to Niemi once again.
Regardless of the outcome, you kind of expect Kari on Saturday night against Florida back at home, right? They are going to balance these guys and try to dole out rest. With the success they're having, it's hard to argue.
If both get into a rut at some point, it will be much more of a story.
Meanwhile, expect the lineup to remain basically the same. Ruff has been saying he'd like to work Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth into the lineup, but unlike the goaltending situation he has been disinclined to tamper with that which has been so successful.
The Stars need some secondary scoring at some point, however- Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have basically been the offense since the Stars hit Florida.
Pittsburgh began the season getting shutout by Antti Niemi in Dallas. They scored just three goals in their first three games.
Sidney Crosby didn't score a point his first five games, and did not register so much as a shot on goal against Dallas on opening night.
Tuesday night Crosby proved that his own struggles were, of course, not sustainable- Breaking out for a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over Florida. Tonight the team with the league's second highest SOG average (over 33 per game) will prove that their offensive struggles as a whole are likewise unsustainable.
The Penguins, make no mistake, are due for an uptick in shooting percentage. The Stars will try to avoid becoming the bug this inevitability squashes as it regresses to the mean.
The Pens have won three in a row against Eastern Conference competition at home (Ottawa, Toronto, Florida)- The latest thanks to their first two power play goals of the season.
On the flip side their penalty kill has been lights-out since leaving Dallas. They've killed 14 of their last 15 shorthanded situations over the course of five games- Meaning they've been very disciplined in limiting their exposure at just three per contest.
Their lineup will look something like this:
Fleury should be expected in net to face down Niemi.
From Stars PR:
"IT'S TOO HOT FOR A PENGUIN TO BE JUST WALKIN' AROUND HERE"
The Dallas Stars conclude their four-game Eastern Conference road trip with a Thursday night matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. Goaltender Antti Niemi shutout Pittsburgh, 3-0, in the Stars 2015-16 regular-season opener on Oct. 8 at American Airlines Center. Forward Ales Hemsky (1-1=2) and Niemi (0-2=2) recorded multi-point games with goals scored by captain Jamie Benn (1-0=1) and rookie forward Mattias Janmark (1-0=1). In the only matchup of the 2014-15 season at CONSOL Energy Center, Dallas posted a 3-2 win on Oct. 16, 2014 as the Stars scored two goals in the final 2:57 of the contest, including the game-winning goal by Tyler Seguin with just 3.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Seguin's goal in the final seconds marked the latest game-winning goal in regulation in Dallas Stars history.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Stars captain Jamie Benn tallied two points (1-1=2) on Tuesday against the Flyers and now has points in all six games this season (6-4=10). Benn is the first player in Dallas Stars history (since 1993-94) to record points in each of the team's first six games of the season and is the first in franchise history to do so since Brian Bellows recorded points (8-4=12) in seven-straight games to start the 1989-90 campaign. Benn currently shares first in the NHL with 10 points (6-4=10), the most he's ever recorded through the first six games of the season. The native of Victoria, B.C. has a three-game goal streak (3-1=4) against Pittsburgh and has goals in five of his last six games (5-1=6) against them. In nine career contests against the Penguins, Benn has tallied seven points (5-2=7).
TYLER THE CREATOR
Stars forward Tyler Seguin recorded his third-straight multi-point outing (1-1=2) in the Stars last game against Philadelphia and is now riding a five-game point streak (4-6=10). Seguin has recorded 10 points (4-6=10) in six games this season and is tied with teammate Jamie Benn for first in the NHL in points. The native of Brampton, Ont. has points in seven of his last eight games (5-2=7) against the Penguins and has 11 points (6-5=11) in 16 career games against them. Seguin was named the NHL's Second Star for the week ending Oct. 18 on Monday after posting seven points (3-4=7) in three games.
UPPING THE ANTTI
Stars goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 34-of-35 shots on Tuesday night, helping the Stars secure a 2-1 victory at Wells Fargo Center against the Philadelphia Flyers. Niemi has won three-straight games against Pittsburgh and has earned points in six of seven career games against them (5-1-1). Earlier this season, he notched his first win in a Stars sweater against the Penguins on Oct. 8, turning aside all 37 shots faced and registering two assists (0-2=2), becoming the first goaltender in NHL history to record two assists and a shutout in the same game. The native of Vantaa, Finland notched the 33rd shutout of his career against Pittsburgh and is only the second goaltender in franchise history to record multiple assists in a game, marking the second time Niemi had registered an assist in his first game with a new team (last: with San Jose Sharks in 2011-12).