Can Stars Build On Recent Success Against Good Penguins Team?

Eight days ago, Pittsburgh extended the Stars’ losing streak to five games. Three subsequent wins have Dallas headed back up the standings.

There is a continuing storyline, going back to Ken Hitchcock 2.0 that Dallas Stars hockey is somehow unwatchable. It is certainly low event, and Sean Tierney of has the charts to prove it.

The bright side is that a week ago, the Stars were hovering dangerously close to the “Bad” quadrant, so in that sense, solidly “Dull” is an improvement.

Dull can be good in some situations and occupations: Air Traffic Controller, Fire Spotter, even Security Guard. For something that purports to be part of the entertainment industry, not so much.

A pair of 2-1 victories over teams that are mainly competing for a high draft choice may not be the best way to put butts in seats, but it does do wonders for the team’s position in the standings. It may even do wonders to the confidence of a team that needed something to break their way.

On Thursday evening, Denis Gurianov completed his phoenix imitation, rising from the ashes of a demotion to the AHL to his first ever NHL hat trick watch.

Good things have started to happen to the Stars. Players are still hitting pipes and crossbars, but they’re getting contributions from depth lines and the goaltenders are returning to last year’s form. Corey Perry’s insertion in the lineup has coincided with the return of some swagger to the group.

The Penguins are going to be a gut check. This three game win streak includes a bit of luck in Philadelphia and a couple victories over a pair of league bottom feeders. Pittsburgh is good. As much randomness as there is in the game, Saturday’s outing is a litmus test for these Stars. Is their recent success a sign that they have put their disastrous start behind them, or is it just a reflection of luck and inferior competition?

The Pittsburgh lineup should be similar to what the Stars faced eight days ago.

Offensively, Nick Bjugstad and Bryan Rust are game time decisions. Bjugstad would normally play on the Penguin’s second line, but has missed the last nine games with a lower body injury. Rust has been out since the beginning of the year but would usually slot in with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the top line. When healthy, both are significant contributors.

On defense, Brian Dumoulin has been sidelined with a lower body injury and has been replaced by Juuso Riikola on the third pair. As a result, Pittsburgh has moved Jack Johnson up to the left side on the first pair, which could be an area that the Stars could exploit.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Roope Hintz (24) - Corey Perry (10)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Jason Dickinson (18) - Radek Faksa (12) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Justin Dowling (37) - Joe Pavelski (16)

Miro Heiskanen (4) - John Klingberg (3)
Esa Lindell (23) - Andrej Sekera (5)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Taylor Fedun (42)

Ben Bishop (30)

Pittsburgh Penguins Lineup

With recent injuries, Penguins lines are likely to be a game-time decision for some personnel. The lates lines in practice looked like this:

Jake Guentzel (59) - Sidney Crosby (87) - Dominik Simon (12)
Bryan Rust (17) - Nick Bjugstad (27)- Patric Hornqvist (72)
Sam Lafferty (37) - Jared McCann (19) - Dominik Kahun (24)
Zach Aston-Reese (46) - Teddy Blueger (53) - Brandon Tanev (13)

John Marino (6) - Kris Letang (58)
Jack Johnson (3) - Justin Schultz (4)
Marcus Pettersson (28) - Erik Gudbranson

Matt Murray (30)

Keys to the Game

Secondary scoring has been nice, but this is a big game against a good team. Time for the Stars top players to be stars.

Right Wing. Perry, Gurianov, Radulov, and Pavelsky need to be better than Johnson, Pettersson, and Riikola. On paper, this should not be a problem.

Finishing. Pittsburgh is one of the teams in the league in converting their high danger scoring chances, but they also give up a high percentage. The margin is slight, but the Stars need more bar down and less bar out.

Did you know?

Even after their horrendous start, @IneffectiveMath at still has the Stars in a position to make the playoffs.