Having to face two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference,
the Dallas Stars figured they’d be tested on their current
four-game road trip.
They were more than up to the challenge in what seemed like a
difficult matchup their last time out, however.
After handing Washington its first home loss of the season, the
Stars carry plenty of momentum into Friday night’s meeting with the
Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
Dallas (11-3-0) missed the playoffs for a franchise worst-tying
third straight season in 2010-11, but has looked every bit like a
contender early on. The Stars lead the NHL in wins and are among
the league leaders with 45 goals.
Dallas began its trek with a 5-2 win over Carolina on Sunday and
continued its excellent all-around play Tuesday, defeating the
Capitals 5-2 with three goals in the third period. Washington came
in 6-0-0 at home.
The Stars, winners of four straight and three in a row on the
road, conclude their trip Saturday against Detroit.
“It’s a good measuring stick for us,” coach Glen Gulutzan said.
“We’re trying to gauge ourselves against the league, coming into
Washington and then heading to Pittsburgh and Detroit. (Tuesday) we
liked our game. It just gives us confidence moving forward.”
Dallas now faces another tough task against the Penguins, who
are 4-1-1 at home while killing off all but one of their opponents’
15 power-play opportunities. The Stars have been outscored 17-6
during a four-game road skid in the series.
After back-to-back losses, Pittsburgh (9-3-3) regrouped to
conclude a three-game trip with a 3-2 shootout victory over Los
Angeles on Saturday. Chris Kunitz tied the game with 2:57 left in
regulation before scoring the deciding goal in the fourth round of
With five days off, there was speculation that Sidney Crosby,
sidelined since Jan. 5 with a concussion, could make his
much-anticipated return. Crosby, however, was ruled out by coach
Dan Bylsma on Thursday and won’t return until Tuesday at the
“You can’t replace a guy like Sid. He obviously makes our team
better when he’s in the lineup,” Kunitz said. “Right now everybody
is pulling their own weight.”
The Penguins have climbed to the top of their division with a
gritty defensive effort, surrendering a league-low three power-play
goals in 44 chances. Marc-Andre Fleury has turned away all 38 shots
he’s faced when Pittsburgh has been short-handed.
“Our penalty kill does a very good job in front of them,
limiting opportunities and also giving (Fleury) shots that he can
work with,” Bylsma said. “(Fleury) doesn’t give up a lot of
rebounds, and when he knows where those shots are coming from, he’s
a big part of that penalty kill.”
Fleury, 5-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA in his last six games, is 4-0-0
with a 1.96 GAA lifetime against Dallas. He’ll look to slow down
Dallas’ rising star Jamie Benn, who’s notched three goals and eight
assists over a six-game point streak.
“Things are going pretty good right now,” Benn said. “I think
it’s because we’re playing a simple game and playing the right way.
Guys are having fun and we’re all buying in and getting big points
on the road.”
Kari Lehtonen, 11-1-0 with a 2.13 GAA, is 5-0-0 with a 1.77 mark
on the road. However, he’s gone 0-3-1 with a 3.21 GAA in his four
games at Pittsburgh.
Penguins left wing Tyler Kennedy, sidelined the last nine games
with concussion-like symptoms, is expected to be a game-time