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Penguins need penalty kill to be better vs. Stars

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com

STARS (1-1-1) at PENGUINS (2-0-0)

TV: TVA SPORTS 2, FS-SW, ROOT

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are aware their penalty kill must improve.

Despite two wins in as many games, the Penguins have been susceptible when down a man. They will attempt to rectify that when they face the Dallas Stars on Thursday at Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh enters play Wednesday 30th in penalty killing (54.6 percent) after wins against the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs by a combined score of 11-6. Five of the six goals it has surrendered have been scored during an opponent's power play.

"We have a lot of guys who haven't killed penalties together," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "[They're] working together on that unit to get in sync and to get the understanding of the couple changes that we're doing on the penalty kill to make sure that we tidy them up."

The Penguins' struggles when down a man have been offset by their power-play proficiency. They lead the League with a 44.4-percent success rate with the man advantage; they thrived in that area last season with a League-best 23.4-percent success rate.

But Pittsburgh also had a top-five penalty kill last season (85.0 percent). They most likely will not be able to rely on scoring five or more goals per game throughout the regular season, so the players understand the importance of decreasing the impact of taking a penalty.

"It's more of where guys should be," said forward Pascal Dupuis, third among Penguins forwards in shorthanded ice time per game. "And it's more of the new system, getting used to it too. It's one thing to do something different, but you have to feel it, you have to play it, you have to know what it's supposed to feel like and how bad it can be before it gets fixed."

The penalty kill could get tested again when they face Dallas forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin; Seguin had a hat trick and Benn had one goal and three assists in the Stars' 4-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.

Stars forward Jason Spezza said he thinks Pittsburgh's penalty killing troubles have been overblown.

"You can't look at these two-game stats and say that they're not good," Spezza said. "They're a good penalty-killing team; they always have been. You can look at a team that's been 0-for-6 on the power play and that's a great power-play team too. So it's such a small sample size.

"We've already talked about how good their [penalty kill] is. They do a lot of good things. … We know they're going to come and be aggressive and we have to be good on our power play and sharp."

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Colton Sceviour

Erik Cole - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt

Shawn Horcoff - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski - Trevor Daley

Jordie Benn - Brenden Dillon

Kevin Connauton - Patrik Nemeth

Kari Lehtonen

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Sergei Gonchar (lower body), Valeri Nichushkin (groin), Rich Peverley (heart)

PENGUINS

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Evgeni Malkin - Brandon Sutter - Pascal Dupuis

Blake Comeau - Marcel Goc - Steve Downie

Craig Adams - Nick Spaling - Zach Sill

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Christian Ehrhoff - Paul Martin

Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Andrew Ebbett, Scott Harrington

Injured: Beau Bennett (lower body), Robert Bortuzzo (lower body)

Status report: Johnston said Wednesday that Pittsburgh will continue to use Malkin on the wing for at least the next two games. Malkin is expected to switch from Sutter's right wing to his left Thursday. … With Nichushkin expected to miss about a week, Dallas recalled McKenzie from the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said McKenzie could play Thursday.

Who's Hot: Crosby had three goals and six points in Pittsburgh's games against the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Hornqvist, Crosby's linemate, began his time in Pittsburgh with consecutive two-point games. … Jamie Benn leads Dallas with four points in three games; Seguin leads with three goals.

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