Stars Faceoff Against Penguins in Featured National Game

Dallas has come a long way from the boring Rick Bowness era. Entertaining, they are - but wins can be fun too.

What’s wrong with ties? Seriously, that extra loser point hasn’t been doing the Dallas Stars any favors this season.

Just think. Stars fans would still be buzzing about Jamie Benn’s last second heroics (and the preceding clearout of Vince Dunn) instead of wondering how Adam Larsson - the Esa Lindell of the Seattle Kraken - deaked Jake Oettinger just as Miro Heiskanen arrived in support.

OK. Say what you will about Oettinger and his workload. He’s fourth in the league in minutes played, and first if you look at 3x3 overtime. There’s a story there, but it isn’t going to be part of a game preview. Suffice it to say, Benn isn’t the only one who is having issues with his bonus time performance.

But enough on the past. Those loser points add up and can get you to the playoffs. Especially if you have the least number of regulation losses in the Western Conference.

The doldrums that come from a season long roadtrip should be firmly in the past. Thursday night, its the Pittsburgh Penguins back in Dallas for a rematch of what was a 2-1 Penguins win back in December. Somewhere, you’re shuddering as you remember Jani Hakanpaa not being able to sort out coverage on a three man weave, leaving an open net for Evgeni Malkin with 35 seconds left in the third.

Hey, maybe it would have been all right to pick up the loser point there?

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Radek Faksa (12) – Max Domi (18) - Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgenii Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) - Luke Glendening (11) – Fredrik Olofsson (42)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundqvist (5)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Remi Poirier (50)

Poirier was fine in his Stars debut, meaning that Matt Murray stood on his head to beat the high scoring Coachella Valley Firebirds 3-1 in Cedar Park (and followed it up with a 6-1 win on Wednesday night). On days where the Dallas and Seattle NHL/AHL franchises both play each other, Dallas is 1-0-1 and Texas is 2-0-0.

I suppose you can’t blame Domi for his lack of production without finishers on his wings - unless, of course, it’s his goaltender interference that takes away the Dellandrea goal. Tyler Seguin is, per Mike Heika, a gametime decision. Lundqvist draws back in, replacing Joel Hanley.

Pittsburgh Penguins Lineup

Jake Guentzel (59) - Sidney Crosby (87) - Bryan Rust (17)
Jason Zucker (16) - Evgeni Malkin (71) - Rickard Rakell (67)
Danton Heinen (43) - Ryan Poehling (25) - Mikael Granlund (64)
Drew O’Connor (10) - Jeff Carter (77) - Josh Archibald (15)

Joseph Pierre-Olivier (73) - Kris Letang (58)
Brian Dumoulin (8) - Chad Ruhwedel (2)
Mark Friedman (52) - Taylor Fedun (4)

Tristan Jarry (35)
Casey DeSmith (1)

The story with the Penguins centers on their defense. Three regular defenders are on injured reserve, with several more at least day to day. On Monday, Taylor Fedun played an NHL game for the first time since we was in the playoffs with the Stars, pre-Covid.

Pittsburgh has been splitting time with their netminders, but DeSmith missed Monday’s game with an illness. And, yes, the Penguins are the team that put up 49 shots against Dylan Ferguson while taking a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. The Penguins also put up 45 shots on Wednesday night, as Jarry beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Of three trade deadline pickups, Granlund is the only one left who isn’t already on injured reserve (Dmitry Kulikov - lower body injury, and Nick Bonino - lacerated kidney), but the Penguins still find themselves in the middle of a fight for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins top six can still be deadly, and Granlund always seems to find a way to be a problem. Offense isn’t going to be Pittsburgh’s problem.

Keys to the Game

Lock down defense. The Penguins only roll three lines on a consistent basis, but they have the firepower to score. Dallas has been leaky of late.

Controlled aggression. The Stars have been committing to offense, with defenders jumping into the play. That said, odd man rushes the other way have become commonplace. Forwards need to better recognize when they cycle back to the point.

National Display. There’s nothing like a national ESPN audience to get a little well deserved attention (cough, cough Wyatt Johnston).