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Pittsburgh vs. Dallas Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (31-26-6-68) at Dallas Stars (29-25-7-65)

Where: American Airlines Center
When: Sunday, March 1, 2008, 3:00 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here
Season Series: The Penguins will face the Stars for the first time this season.  



  Pens vs. Stars 11/30/2007
Balance: Sidney Crosby’s lingering groin injury forced him to miss two consecutive games and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s showdown in Dallas. The Penguins have overcome the loss of their captain because they’ve gotten contributions from throughout the lineup. Pittsburgh’s “role players” will have to step up their game to make up for Crosby’s absence.  

Don’t Overlook:
The Dallas Stars are a dangerous team and can’t be taken lightly. They are struggling right now - losing four consecutive games - and are fighting for a playoff spot. Dallas is a desperate hockey club and will throw everything at Pittsburgh. The Penguins better be ready for a fight. 
Even though the Dallas Stars don’t boast a lineup full of superstars, head coach Dave Tippett always fields a competitive, hard-working team and this year is no different. The Stars, much like the Penguins, find themselves fighting for their playoff lives. As of Saturday afternoon, Dallas is sitting in the 10th spot in Western Conference standings with 65 points. However, they don’t have to look too far ahead or in the rearview mirror to realize that several teams – Columbus (68), Anaheim (67), Edmonton (65), Minnesota (65), Nashville (64), St. Louis (62), Los Angeles (61) and Phoenix (59) – are all desperately trying to finish in the top eight.

The Stars hovered around the .500 mark for much of the season until an incredible run in late January/February. Dallas won seven of eight games and appeared to have a postseason berth locked up but the bottom fell out at the end of the month. The Stars have lost four consecutive games and dropped to the No. 8 spot. Dallas is looking to stop its slide against the Penguins.
Brett Hull and Les Jackson are splitting the general manager duties. Dallas plucked Fabian Brunnstrom from Sweden. The 24-year-old was a hot commodity after a successful season with Farjestads BK Karistad. Then Hull threw his weight behind the acquisition of Sean Avery, an experiment that didn’t end well. On Thursday, Dallas traded defenseman Doug Janik to Montreal for center Steve Begin.
The Stars offense has been mediocre this season, scoring an average of 2.84 goals per game to rank 14th in the NHL. Mike Ribeiro has been the Stars’ leading scoring ever since the team traded for him at the start of the 2006. Last year, Ribeiro enjoyed his best season as a pro. He tallied career highs in goals (27), assists (56), points (83) and plus-minus rating (+21). He currently leads the team with 56 points on 15 goals and 41 assists.

Injuries have sidelined some key Dallas forwards. Brad Richards, the team’s No. 2 scoring with 16 goals, 32 assists for 48 points, will be out for 4-6 more weeks after fracturing his right wrist. Brenden Morrow, who finished second on the team last year with 74 points (32G-42A), tore his right ACL in November and likely won’t return this year.

Veteran Mike Modano is still contributing at a high level despite playing on the third line and being 38 years old. The 19-year pro, all of which have been with the same organization, is fourth on the team with 37 points (14G-23). Loui Eriksson, the Stars’ second-round pick (33rd overall) in 2003, continues to improve. He had a breakthrough season last year with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points. Through 60 games this year, the 23-year-old already set new career highs with 27 goals and 44 points. Brunnstrom is having a fairly successful NHL debut with 20 points.
The Dallas defense has been consistently one of the best of the young century. However, the Stars defense hasn’t been as stingy or shutdown as it used to be. Dallas is yielding 3.00 goals per game to rank 23rd in the NHL – its worst statistical season since 2001-02. The Stars blue line suffered an enormous blow early in the season when Sergei Zubov injured his hip after playing only 10 games. He had surgery in January and will not return this season.

Stephane Robidas provides veteran leadership to an otherwise up-and-coming defensive corps. Robidas notched career highs last year with nine goals, 17 assists and 26 points. He already has 19 assists and 21 points this year. Matt Niskanen is one of Dallas’ young, promising defensemen. The Stars drafted the Minnesota native with the 28th-overall pick in 2005. He broke into the league last year and notched seven goals and 19 assists for 26 points. Niskanen has seen his role expanded since the loss of Zubov and Philippe Boucher. The stars have four blueliners that are 25 years old or younger
Marty Turco has been between the pipes for Dallas since 2000. After two seasons backing up Ed Belfour, Turco became the Stars’ go-to guy in 2002-03 and he responded with a 31-10-10 record and career-bests 1.72 goals against average and .932 save percentage. Turco was among the elite goaltenders in the NHL for the past five seasons but is having a subpar year statistically. His GAA is a career-high 2.77 and his saver percentage is a career-low .898. It is true that Turco is playing behind a team, particularly on defense, that isn’t as stacked as some of the past Dallas teams but there are rumblings in Dallas about his declining play. Turco played in Dallas’ 4-3 loss to Anaheim on Saturday afternoon.
He may not be the player he used to be but Mike Modano is still the heart and soul of the Stars franchise. In 1988, the Stars – then the Minnesota North Stars – made Modano the second American in NHL history to be selected first-overall in the entry draft. Twenty years later, Modano still dons the Stars jersey and holds nearly every franchise scoring record. Modano is also possibly the most prominent American player in the NHL. He has the most goals (542) and points (1,320) by an American-born player in league history.

Modano’s best statistical seasons were the 1992-93 (33G-60A-93P) and 1993-94 (50+43=93) seasons. He’s tallied at least 80 points in eight seasons and 70-plus points in 12 seasons. Modano is an eight-time All-Star and a Stanley Cup Champion.

He began his career with a 75-point rookie season and was well known for his lightning-fast speed. As he’s aged, Modano has adapted his game. His trademark speed has diminished and the 19-year veteran has become a much more reliable defensive player.

Throughout his career, Modano has given a lot to the NHL, the Stars organization and USA hockey. This may be one of the last times Penguins fans get to see Modano play. When he does finally decide to retire it will be a huge loss to the sport of hockey.
“We are in a hard battle for the playoffs and I don’t care who is playing, we have to get the job done,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We are competing hard but we have some weak links right now. Marty didn’t have his best night and we are making mistakes that are costing us games.”
- Stars head coach Dave Tippett told the team’s official website
> Modano hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 21 at Florida.

> Former Penguin Daryl Sydor is one point shy of his 400th.

> The Dallas power play has scored on two goals on its last 27 chances.

> Ribeiro has seven points (2G-5A) in his last six games.

Author: Sam Kasan

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