The Dallas Stars have earned two winning streaks at home this season. The last one started in the year 2014. Nine of their twelve home wins have been followed by losses.
They have lost 22 of their 35 home games, and the only teams that have dropped more in front of their faithful (Buffalo, Edmonton, Arizona) appear to some to be doing it on purpose.
And so it is as these Stars, losers of eight of their last ten at American Airlines Center, welcome one of the league's teams sure to conjure up a road-like atmosphere for Lindy Ruff's bunch: Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Dallas, by the way, has 8 points to make up, four teams to jump, and 12 games to do it.
(Non sequitur that I'll just leave here: Eight teams have more road wins than the Stars' 19. In the entire league. Just eight. And the greatest difference on that score is just three wins (22 each), owned by those teams burdened with that brutal northeastern travel in the Rangers and Canadiens.)
They'll try once more to improve their standing with the natives, and will be happy to get John Klingberg back into the lineup in doing so. He's back after an upper-body injury sidelined him in Philadelphia.
Other than that Ruff told media Wednesday that he didn't see much cause to alter his lineup.
"We've played too good for me to say we are going to change things now," Ruff told DallasStars.com. "For me, why would I change? We could have won [against St. Louis]. We played well enough to win. We just didn't execute. I am not going to blow things up after what I see was some lack of execution."
Alex Goligoski has been sidelined this week with illness but may play tonight - this after Jason Demers endured the same, so there may be some sickness making the rounds.
Dallas held St. Louis to just 21 shots while posting 28 of their own but couldn't convert on the power play despite ample opportunity.
The Pens arrive having put 35, 43, 30, 34, and 40 shots on their opponent's nets in their last five contests. They own that puck, and they'll get their opportunities without blinking - never mind that they haven't been converting on them of late.
They've lost three in a row, all to Eastern opponents, and have been shutout in two of their last three games. Their shooting percentage is due for a little course correction.
And the Stars have allowed the league's second-highest goal total this year, including an unhealthy 3.43 over their last 14 at the AAC dating back to January 3rd - a healthy sample size.
Add to all of that the Penguins' success on the road in the Western Conference, where they've thrived this season: Wins or at least points in Los Angeles, Anaheim, St. Louis, Chicago, San Jose, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Nashville.
Their only regulation losses? Colorado and Vancouver. They've been almost completely successful on the road in the West this season. And before their loss in New Jersey this week they had collected points in 10 of their previous 12 road games.
They've not allowed a power play goal in their last four road games, and in fact did not even afford the Devils the chance on Tuesday.
Cody Eakin and Vern Fiddler will likely be given a chance to tango with Crosby, and Ruff gave some indication with his practice lines that if needed, the "super line" could possibly be reassembled, so it will be interesting to watch these matchups play out.
Evgeni Malkin remains out with a lower-body injury. Noted former Nashville Predator pest Patric Hornqvist could possibly miss with an undisclosed injury. He did not play on Tuesday either.
From Stars PR:
"IT'S TOO HOT FOR A PENGUIN TO BE JUST WALKING AROUND HERE"
The Stars host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night in the second and final meeting between the two clubs scheduled for this season. Dallas posted a 3-2 win over the Penguins on Oct. 16 in the first matchup against them at Consol Energy Center as the Stars scored two goals in the final 2:57 of the contest, including the game-winner with just 3.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Forward Jason Spezza (0-2=2) and defenseman Alex Goligoski (0-2=2) each tallied two assists in the contest, while forwards Antoine Roussel, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin scored goals for the Stars. Dallas comes into Thursday's contest having earned points in each of the last three home games against the Penguins, going 2-0-1 in the last three at American Airlines Center.