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At the Rink: Penguins at Stars

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- The Pittsburgh Penguins hope facing the Dallas Stars, who are tied for the third-most non-shootout goals-against in the NHL (226) at American Airlines Center on Thursday, is just what they need to end a three-game losing streak where the Penguins have scored one goal on 108 shots.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said he knows that even though Dallas, which lost 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday to begin a four-game homestand, has allowed a lot of goals, the Stars are adept at scoring them.

"They play a pace game, a skating game," Johnston said. "They're a very good transition team from their back end to their forwards and they're a hard forechecking group. That's what we talked to our team about; we have to prepare and have that mindset going into the game."

Center Sidney Crosby said he knows of one easy the Penguins can limit quality scoring chances for the Stars.

"I would say just don't make it easy on them," Crosby said. "They're going to create chances with the guys that they have. There are going to be opportunities; just a matter of limiting their time and space and try not to give them the easy ones."

Johnston is keeping his forward lines and defense pairings identical from a 2-0 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was first off the ice and will start for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins held an optional morning skate on Thursday but 15 of the 20 players on the trip were on the ice.

Dallas is 2-5-3 in its past 10 home games.

Despite the Penguins' recent offensive woes, Stars coach Lindy Ruff still views them as a dangerous and formidable foe.

"We got a team that's desperate for getting in the win column," he said. "They play the game hard. They play pretty similar to us, good skating team, north/south. They got some good offensive players. We know we need to take care of that part. We know special teams will be important."

Ruff is making two changes to his lineup from the loss to the Blues. On the fourth line, left wing Ryan Garbutt, a healthy scratch the past three games, returns and will skate alongside center Vernon Fiddler and right wing Colton Sceviour.

Garbutt hasn't scored in 31 games, so it's understandable that Ruff wants to see some offensive production from him.

"I've told him that the lack of production has got you out," Ruff said. "[I said] I need you to play well inside his role from the penalty killing to the energy part of it and discipline inside of his game. But at the end there's got to be some production."

Also, rookie defenseman John Klingberg, who had missed the past three games because of an upper-body injury, will skate alongside fellow rookie Patrik Nemeth on the second pair.

Goalie Kari Lehtonen was first off the ice at morning skate and will start a fifth consecutive game.

Here are the projected lineups:

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Blake Comeau

Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - Steve Downie

Andrew Ebbett - Maxim Lapierre - Craig Adams

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Christian Ehrhoff - Ben Lovejoy

Rob Scuderi - Ian Cole

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: None

Injured: Pascal Dupuis (blood clots), Patric Hornqvist (undisclosed), Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Olli Maatta (upper body)

STARS

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Curtis McKenzie - Shawn Horcoff - Brett Ritchie

Ryan Garbutt - Vernon Fiddler - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - Jyrki Jokipakka

Patrik Nemeth - John Klingberg

Jordie Benn - Jason Demers

Kari Lehtonen

Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Patrick Eaves

Injured: Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

Status report: Eaves is a healthy scratch for the first time in eight games, since he returned from a concussion on March 1 against Anaheim. … Defenseman Esa Lindell, a third-round (No. 74) pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, was assigned from Assat in Finland to Texas in the American Hockey League.

Who’s hot: Perron has scored five of his seven goals against the Stars at American Airlines Center. … In seven games against Dallas, Crosby has seven goals and 11 points. … Jamie Benn is tied for first in the NHL with five shorthanded points. … Lehtonen is 9-5-3 with a 2.71 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and one shutout in 17 games against the Penguins.

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