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Stars visit Pittsburgh in battle of conference leaders

by Pete Jensen

STARS (11-3-0) at PENGUINS (9-3-3)


Last 10 : Dallas 8-2-0; Pittsburgh 6-3-1

Season Series: Friday's game at Consol Energy Center is the first of two meetings this season between the Stars and Penguins. In the only meeting last season, Loui Eriksson scored twice and added an assist to lift Dallas to a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh at American Airlines Center.

Big Story: Dallas and Pittsburgh enter the game in first place in their respective conferences. The Penguins return home after five days of rest following a three-game road trip that ended with a 3-2 shootout win in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Stars have won four straight, including 5-2 victories at Carolina on Sunday and at Washington on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Stars: Kari Lehtonen, who leads all NHL goaltenders with 11 wins, has been the foundation of Dallas' strong start to the season. But the Stars' recent offensive prowess has helped the team to the top of the NHL standings. The Stars have won four straight, outscoring their opponents 20-11 in that span. Against Washington, Dallas reeled off three unanswered third-period goals to pick up its most impressive win of the season.

"It's a good measuring stick for us," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We're trying to gauge ourselves against the League, coming into Washington and then going to Pittsburgh and Detroit. We feel this is going to be a real good measuring stick. We liked our game [on Tuesday] and I think it gives us confidence moving forward."

Penguins: After dropping consecutive road games to the Toronto Maple Leafs (in regulation) and the San Jose Sharks (in a shootout), Pittsburgh ended its road trip on a high note in Los Angeles.

Trailing 2-1 late in the third period, the Penguins tied the game on Chris Kunitz's equalizer with 2:57 remaining in the game. Then, after a scoreless overtime, Kunitz came through again with the game-winner in the fourth round of the shootout to help salvage the team's three-game stint away from home.

"After our letdown in San Jose and letting them get back into the game, it was nice to do it to someone else," Kunitz said. "But to get three out of four points on two really good West Coast teams is satisfying. It's nice to get home and get a break here."

Who's Hot: James Neal has compiled a goal and four assists during his four-game point streak. … Jamie Benn has three goals and eight assists in his last six games.

Injury Report: Penguins' coach Dan Bylsma ruled out Sidney Crosby (post-concussion syndrome) for the team's next two games, and also said Tyler Kennedy (concussion) will be a game-time decision against the Stars. … Steve Ott was placed on IR by Dallas on Thursday and won't play Friday at Pittsburgh or Saturday at Detroit.

Stat Pack: Dallas is 3-0-0 this season against Eastern Conference teams. The Stars also experienced success against the East last season, compiling an 11-5-2 record. … Pittsburgh is 4-0-2 against the West this season and 8-0-4 in its last 12 inter-conference games.

Puck Drop: Friday's game between the Stars and Penguins will mark the first meeting between the teams since their trade in February. Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski, who was traded from Pittsburgh to Dallas in exchange for James Neal and Matt Niskanen in February, will face the team that drafted him back in 2004 for the first time of his career.

"I don't know [what it's going to be like]. I haven't thought about it too much," Goligoski said. "The weird thing will probably be just playing against all the guys, guys I played with for a few years. Just being on the other side of the puck will probably be a little different. Game wise, I have a pretty good idea of what they're going to try to do. It will be easy from that standpoint."

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