For all its usual offensive prowess, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been slumping hard in that department recently with one goal in the last eight periods. That came to a head with their 2-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, but Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said the recent results are deceiving.
"When I watch...their last game, it's a game that you might as well put it in the St. Louis-Dallas can that you think you think you should have won the game, you had better opportunities, and you don't win," Ruff told the assembled media at the Stars morning skate. "When I went through the game, some of their key players had key opportunities to put it in the back of the net but didn't get it in the back of the net, and all of a sudden you lose the game. And that's pretty similar to what happened to us. It's not that they played poorly."
The Stars and Penguins played a memorable game early this season where one of those borderline goalie interference calls nullified a possible game-tying goal for the Stars late in the third. That brought out some anger in the super-trio of the time, which got goals from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in the final three minutes, including the game-winner from Seguin with 2.5 seconds left, for the regulation win.
A lot has changed about the Stars lineup in the ensuing five months, whether via injury, attrition or trade. Here's what the forwards looked like this morning:
Stars lines this morning: Benn-Eakin-Seguin; Roussel-Spezza-Hemsky; McKenzie-Horcoff-Ritchie; Garbutt-Fiddler-Sceviour.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 19, 2015
The obvious news out of this is the split of the Benn-Spezza-Seguin trio that spent time together in practice Tuesday, though Ruff has said the light might be used sporadically, and it obviously reunites for the power play in most circumstances.
Ryan Garbutt is also set to re-enter the lineup for the first time in three games down on the fourth line.
"Production, really," Ruff said when asked what he was looking for from Garbutt. "I've told him that the lack of production has got you out. I need you to play well inside his role from the penalty killing to the energy part of it and discipline inside of his game, but in the end, there has to be some production."
Garbutt has not scored a goal since December 31.
Even though some of the lines have changed over the past few practices, the odd-man out still appears to be Patrick Eaves, who was skating on the "fifth line" with the injured Travis Moen and Valeri Nichushkin. Eaves came back into the lineup like gangbusters from his concussion but has been quiet in the production department recently.
John Klingberg is also ready to return to the lineup, and according to Stepneski, he was paired with fellow Swedish rookie Patrik Nemeth at the morning skate. Jordie Benn with Jason Demers and Jyrki Jokipakka with Alex Goligoski rounded out the defense. Klingberg had spent most of his time with Goligoski before heading to the press box with an upper-body injury, but perhaps the Stars are trying to limit his minutes as he re-enters the lineup.
Or maybe they're trying to establish the dominant Swedish pairing for the next 20 years. Who knows.
On the goalie front, Kari Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice, so he looks like the Stars starter despite the loss to St. Louis.
The Penguins skate was apparently optional, so it's tough to get a sense on who is missing. Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goalie off the ice though. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist are injured though and not on the trip.