Though it’s not official, the defending Stanley Cup champion
Pittsburgh Penguins should be playing postseason hockey next month.
The same cannot be said for the Dallas Stars as they begin a tough
road trip that could go a long way toward determining their playoff
The Penguins look to continue their mastery over Stars on
Saturday at Mellon Arena.
While Pittsburgh (38-22-4) and New Jersey will contend for the
top spot in the Atlantic Division and likely the No. 2 or 3 seed in
the Eastern Conference, Dallas (28-23-12) is currently outside the
top eight in the West.
Coming off the Olympic break, the Stars have been outscored 11-2
in home losses to Los Angeles and St. Louis, and that lack of
offensive spark also couldn’t have come at a worse time. Dallas
also will visit NHL-leading Washington and always-tough Buffalo
before a season-high six-game homestand.
The Stars had won six of nine before the league-wide shutdown,
but coach Marc Crawford said that matters little now.
“We haven’t got the ability to say, ‘Boy, we were really good
before the break,'” he told the Stars’ official Web site. “It’s
what we have right now, and we’re dealing with what we have right
now. The present is really present for us. … We’ve got a huge
task that we’ve got to put all our energies toward.”
Dallas now must focus its energies on trying to beat Pittsburgh
for the first time in nearly seven years. The Penguins have won
four straight over the Stars, outscoring them 16-5, and return home
after outlasting a division foe.
Pittsburgh fired a season-high 55 shots at Henrik Lundqvist of
the New York Rangers on Thursday, erasing a two-goal deficit and
winning 5-4 on Evgeni Malkin’s power-play score 3:42 into
“We deserved that one,” the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby said. “We
felt like it was only a matter of time before we were back into
Crosby, who scored for Canada in overtime of the gold-medal game
against the United States on Sunday, has managed one assist in each
of two games since the NHL resumed its schedule, and remains tied
with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for league lead with 42 goals.
The Pittsburgh captain scored twice in a home victory over the
Stars in 2007, but missed a 4-1 triumph March 1, 2009 in Dallas due
to a groin injury.
While the Stars have been struggling to put the puck in the net,
they also hope giving oft-injured goaltender Kari Lehtonen his
first start in a Dallas uniform over Marty Turco will provide a
Selected second overall by Atlanta in 2002, Lehtonen was
acquired from the Thrashers on Feb. 9. He has been on injured
reserve four times since 2005, missing 127 games due to groin and
Lehtonen saw his first action since April 11 on Thursday, coming
on early in the second period against the Blues after Turco stopped
seven of 11 shots. Lehtonen turned away 14 of 16.
Though Dallas fell 6-1, Crawford liked what he saw from
“The good thing about last night was that he got to have about
35 minutes of quality start,” he said. “The fatigue that sets in
when you have the battle in the goal mouth for 30 or 40 seconds,
that’s really hard, anaerobically for a goalie, so for him to get
that intensity was certainly good and I know he’s looking forward
to his start.”
Lehtonen is 6-2-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average in his
career against the Penguins, but has dropped his last three starts
at Mellon Arena.
Stars forward Loui Eriksson scored versus St. Louis, tying James
Neal for the team lead with 24 goals.