The Dallas Stars will look to defend their four-game winning streak tonight at home, as they take to the ice for the start of the final run to the playoffs. With Monday’s trade deadline behind them, and the team staying quiet, the Stars now know what they have heading forward. The push for the postseason gets underway tonight as they will have a rare meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Dallas. While the Stars will enter the game on fire and holding onto the 8th spot in the West, the Penguins are 4th in the East and they’ve won three straight games. In the one meeting up in Pittsburgh early in the season, the Pens won 3-1 over the Stars as Dallas entered that game with some fire as well.
The big headline for the Stars is that they are finally getting Jamie Benn back into the lineup. Benn has missed six games after taking a skate blade to the leg after a play along the boards, and the team has been able to win without him. But it is undeniable that Benn is one of the Stars’ few elite talents and if the team is going to make a strong push for the postseason, they will need him. It looks like he will center the second line with Steve Ott and Adam Burish as his wingers. Captain Brenden Morrow is still on the IR, but the team hopes to have him back after their roadtrip through western Canada this weekend. On the other side, the Penguins are still of course without superstar Sidney Crosby who continues to remain out with concussion issues. He is skating, but still without any contact or stress. Winger Tyler Kennedy is also out with an ankle injury.
The puck drops from the AAC at 6:30PM central time tonight, as the early start is because the game will be nationally broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Both teams will be starting their number one netminders tonight, as Kari Lehtonen and Marc-Andre Fleury will be the starters tonight. While the game doesn’t mean as much as all of thee upcoming games against Western opponents, it still looks to be a big game at home. The Stars only have one more game after tonight against an Eastern Conference opponent (Winnipeg in a couple of weeks), and starting this weekend they will basically be playing against teams in the playoff race every game. So picking up even just one point tonight would be a nice touch heading forward, but a win could continue to build momentum and confidence moving forward.
- Matt Niskanen and James Neal return to Dallas after being traded last season for Alex Goligoski. Both have thrived in Pittsburgh and Neal has reached another level playing next to Evgeni Malkin.
- Speaking of Malkin, he has five goals in their three wins.
- Mike Ribeiro has 10 points over the last seven games and has stepped his play up with the recent injury woes facing the Stars.
- Kari Lehtonen is 3-0-0 with a 0.98 goals against average and .965 save percentage in his last three starts.