DALLAS — At home, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been virtually unbeatable, going 20-7-1 at PPG Paints Arena. However, road games have been a different story for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
Pittsburgh (30-22-3) is 10-15-2 away from the Steel City, a discrepancy which goaltender Matt Murray is at a loss to explain.
“We’re just focused on trying to get better and the results will take care of themselves,” Murray said after practice Thursday. “I don’t think we think much into that (discrepancy in our home and road records). We just try to execute our gameplan. We know that we have a gameplan that will give us a chance to win and if we execute, then we can win on any given night, so that’s where our focus lies.”
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The Penguins are just 10-12-3 against the Western Conference and 3-6-2 against the Central Division. And Pittsburgh will head into Friday’s game with Dallas at American Airlines Center more than a bit short-handed at forward as three players are out with lower-body injuries.
Patric Hornqvist and Tom Kuhnhackl are week-to-week while Carter Rowney is day-to-day. Kuhnhackl and Rowney left Tuesday’s 5-4 home victory against the Vegas Golden Knights early.
However, fellow forward Conor Sheary, out the past two games with a lower-body injury, practiced Thursday and will make the two-game trip, which also takes the Penguins to St. Louis on Sunday.
On Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh recalled center Teddy Blueger from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Blueger, a second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, had 14 assists and 26 points in 45 AHL games this season.
Blueger could make his NHL debut Friday in Dallas.
With his forward ranks currently thinned by injuries, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan is going to have to make some changes to his penalty kill, but Sullivan feels good about his fallback options on the PK.
“We can utilize Jake (Guentzel). We can utilize Sid (Crosby) if we need to,” Sullivan said Thursday. “I think Zac Aston-Reese has been a good penalty killer for Wilkes-Barre this year. And then we have Riley (Sheahan) and Carl (Hagelin) as well (who can also kill penalties). I think we’ve got enough guys to get the job done.”
Friday will mark a homecoming for Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who will be making his first appearance in Dallas since being traded in December. Oleksiak, the 14th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft by Dallas, played 140 games for the Stars between 2012-2017 prior to the trade.
Dallas (32-19-4), which has won four straight, will be on the tail end of a back-to-back after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 at United Center on Thursday, clinching a sweep of the four-game season series with their division rivals for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Tyler Seguin had two goals in Chicago for the Stars, who are 13-5-4 against the Eastern Conference and 19-8-1 at home. Seguin has scored in four consecutive games.
Ben Bishop stopped 37 shots for Dallas in a game that earlier in the week he wasn’t expected to start. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock had said prior to Monday’s game against the New York Rangers that the plan was to start Kari Lehtonen in Chicago and Bishop on Friday against Pittsburgh in Dallas.
However, Bishop was strong between the pipes in the Windy City and a big contributor to the win.
“Well, that was our rock,” Seguin said of Bishop. “It’ll be a whole different game if he wasn’t playing how he was playing tonight. Through and through, he had a great day.”
Midway through the second period, Dallas lost young defenseman Julius Honka following a hit by ex-Star Patrick Sharp. He suffered a lower-body injury.
“Honka will be evaluated tomorrow (Friday),” Hitchcock said postgame. “I would imagine the guys that are out (tonight) will all be in tomorrow.”
Hitchcock said Lehtonen will start in goal Friday against the Penguins.