Pittsburgh Penguins (38-22-4-80) vs. Dallas Stars (28-23-12-68)
08-09 Season Series: Pittsburgh won 1-0 09-10 Home vs. Dallas: 0-0 All-Time vs. Dallas: Penguins lead 62-56-12 All-Time Home vs. Dallas: Penguins lead 39-19-6 Overtime: Penguins lead 2-1-3 Shootout: Penguins lead 1-0
Dallas entered the Olympic break on a bit of a roll with six wins in their last nine games, including two shutouts from goaltender Marty Turco, but have lost both contests following the break. They have been outscored 11-2 in losses to Los Angeles and St. Louis. The Stars currently have 68 points on the season, 11th-best in the Western Conference, but just two points behind eighth-place Detroit. Dallas is hoping to avoid back-to-back non-playoff seasons under the direction of first-year head coach Marc Crawford.
Jamie Benn – Benn, a 20-year-old rookie, has been a great fit on the team’s top-two lines as a budding power forward. A fifth-round pick of the Stars in 2007, Benn has shown great hands around the cage with 15 goals, the fourth-highest total among all rookies. In junior he also displayed a physical edge.
Karlis Skrastins – Skrastins is the consummate defensive blueliner whose style and skills are reminiscent of former Penguin Rob Scuderi. He is technically sound defensively and one of the top shot-blockers in the game. Skrastins is also plenty durable, as proved by his NHL record 495 consecutive games played earlier in his career, a record for a defenseman.
Jeff Woywitka – The veteran defenseman offers depth along the back line as the team’s No. 7 defenseman. Woywitka came into the NHL as a top prospect but injuries slowed his development. At 6-foot-3 Woywitka is a rugged, physical blueliner.
Jere Lehtinen – When experts mention the top two-way forwards in the game Lehtinen’s name is usually at the top of the list. Lehtinen is a three-time Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive forward. The 2010 bronze medalist with Team Finland also has a fair goal-scoring touch with seven 20-goal seasons on his resume. This season he has three goals and 12 points in 40 games.
Brendan Morrow – The Dallas captain might be having a down season offensively with 14 goals and 33 points in 63 games, but you have to remember he is coming off a torn ACL last year. One of the most physical forwards in the game, Morrow showed how effective he can be, especially away from the puck, with Team Canada in Vancouver. He also chipped in two goals for the Canadians. James Neal – Neal is another up-and-coming second-year power forward for the Stars. The 22-year-old has already tied last season’s goal total (24) while his 46 points already surpass the 37 he put up last year. Neal leads the team with four game-winning goals. He is responsible enough to see time on both the power play and the penalty kill for the Stars.
Steve Ott – Ott got a well-deserved four-year deal just prior to the trade deadline. Had the Stars decided to try dealing him, there would have been more teams inquiring than not. After spending the early part of his career on the Stars’ third line, Ott has developed into a legitimate second-liner thanks to his big body, soft hands and abrasiveness. He has 11 goals, 23 points and 100 penalty minutes in 54 games.
Mike Ribeiro – Ribeiro’s superb playmaking skills are a perfect complement to all the bangers Dallas employs on the wing. The 30-year-old pivot had to sit out 15 games with a throat contusion but since his return in early February, has picked up six points (4G-2A) in five games. Before injury struck this season, Ribeiro posted back-to-back career seasons with the Stars.
Brad Richards – The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 is having a rebound season after two down campaigns the past two years. Richards ranks fourth in the NHL with 51 assists. He leads the Stars with 68 points (17G-51A) in 61 games. However, he is a team-worst minus-15 this season.
Trevor Daley – At 5-foot-11, Daley is the perfect example of a defenseman who would not have had a great chance to play before the lockout, but can now excel. Daley makes a great outlet pass from his own zone and plays his position well, two important aspects for a D-man who isn’t overly physical. Daley ranks second among Dallas blueliners by averaging 22:12 minutes of ice time.
Nicklas Grossman – At 6-foot-4, Grossman is the biggest defenseman on the Dallas roster, but he does not necessarily play to his size. Instead, he relies more on solid positioning and a good stick to make plays. Grossman, who ranks fourth in ice time among Dallas blueliners, has picked up four assists in 56 games.
Matt Niskanen – A small but thick defenseman built in the mold of the Penguins Kris Letang, Niskanen is another smooth-skating defenseman for the Stars. However, the American-born rearguard has seen his offensive numbers fall off a bit after posting a career-high 35 points (7G-28A) last season. This year he has only two goals and 12 points to go with a minus-10 rating.
Stephane Robidas – There is little question Robidas is the bell cow on the Dallas blueline. The two-way defender paces the team’s defensemen in goals (10), assists (23), points (33) and ice time (24:24). All of those figures are already new career highs for the 33-year-old. He has an absolute cannon of a shot, and he is not afraid to use it, evidenced by his 149 shots.
Trevor Daley Stephane Robidas
Kari Lehtonen – Dallas acquired what they hope will be their goaltender of the future last month when they plucked Lehtonen from the Atlanta Thrashers. The former No. 2-overall selection from the 2002 NHL Entry Draft has all the talent in the world, but health has been the biggest detriment to his career. He made his ’09-10 season debut in relief of Marty Turco on Thursday. He stopped 14 of the 16 shots he faced. The 6-foot-4 netminder takes up plenty of space in the crease and can quickly move from side-to-side. His best season came in 2006-07 when he won a career-high 34 games and posted a career-best 2.79 goals-against average.
Marty Turco – Plenty of trade speculation surrounded Turco following Lehtonen’s arrival, but Dallas elected to hang onto their long-time netminder. Turco, who ranks No. 1 in most significant Stars’ goaltending records, played in his 500th career game on Tuesday. Turco struggled at the beginning of the season, but posted shutouts in two o his last four games heading into the Olympic break. He was pulled from the net on Thursday after allowing four goals on 11 shots. One thing to keep in mind about Turco, he is one of the best puckhandling goaltenders in the game so the Penguins have to be smart with their dumps against him.
Marty Turco Kari Lehtonen
Loui Eriksson - If you want to impress your friends with the name of one of the best rising snipers in the game, throw Loui Eriksson’s name around. The 24-year-old winger ranks second on the 55 points (24G-31A) in 63 games, and was a fixture on the second line for Team Sweden at the Olympics. His three goals were tied for the team lead. Eriksson is dangerous because not only can he snipe from the perimeter, but he is also not afraid to stick his nose in the crease and work for dirty goals. Last season Eriksson set career highs with 36 goals and 63 points. He is on pace to surpass his point total this season.
“It’s pretty amazing. Any time you represent your country, you take pride in it, I’d done it at every level but the Olympics. … It’s a dream come true.” - Dallas captain and Canadian gold medalist Brendan Morrow describing his Olympic experience to the Stars official team website.
"Our work ethic isn't there. When you don't show up and give a good effort, that's what happens. We should be back, full of energy, and that's not the case. These last two games are a slap in the face." - Dallas defenseman Stephan Robidas speaking to Yahoo! Sports about the team’s struggles since returning from the Olympic break.
“(Brendan) Morrow was a guy who played very well up in Vancouver. We will keep an eye on him tomorrow.” - Marc-Andre Fleury on the Dallas captain.
77.0 Dallas ranks 26th in the NHL with a success rate of only 77 percent on the penalty kill
1,843 Pittsburgh played the league’s most physical team (NY Rangers) on Thursday, and now get to face the team who ranks second in hits on Saturday