Good morning from CONSOL Energy Center, where the Pens are looking to extend their winning streak to four games with a showdown against the dangerous Dallas Stars.
Tonight’s game is a rematch of the season-opener, a game in which the Stars got the better of the Pens, 3-0, in Big D thanks to some spectacular goaltending by Antti Niemi and his 37-save shutout. Niemi will start tonight for Dallas.
Both teams are coming in hot. Pittsburgh is on a three-game winning streak while the Stars have been victorious in four straight. Somebody’s streak will end tonight.
DUPUIS RETURNS Winger Pascal Dupuis, who missed the first six games of this season with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup tonight against the Dallas Stars. It will be his first NHL regular-season game since Nov. 15, 2014 against the New York Rangers.
“I’m feeling great. I got the OK to go tonight so I’m pretty excited,” Dupuis told me. “(Practices) went well. Skated all of them basically. It was a matter of getting reps with the team, getting back into some kind of shape that allows me to play.”
Dupuis, 36, has been plagued with health issues the past two seasons. Two years ago his season was cut short when his ACL and MCL were torn. Last season he played in 16 contests before shutting it down for the year due to a blood clot that traveled from his knee to his lung.
As expected, he’s more than ready to get back in the lineup.
“Definitely excited,” Dupuis told the team’s website. “Obviously healed quicker than I thought it would, than anybody else thought. So it’s good to finally get back out there for a real game.”
Dupuis will be bounced around between different lines, according to head coach Mike Johnston.
“He’s had a couple of good skates. The trainers felt he was ready to go,” Johnston said. “He was cleared (Wednesday) to go into a full practice. We thought he looked good in that. We wanted to see how he looked in the morning skate. He’s ready to go now.”
SPRONG BACK, BUT OUT Pens rookie Daniel Sprong missed the club’s 3-2 overtime win against Florida on Tuesday due to a visa issue. He was in Canada to complete the process to work in the United States.
Sprong rejoined his teammates Thursday morning.
“It’s just a long process,” said Sprong, who now has a visa to cover his three-year entry-level deal. “I’m happy to be back with the team.”
Even though he’s back with the Pens, Johnston said Sprong will not be in the lineup tonight against the Stars.
“He got a few workouts in Montreal, but missed a few days,” Johnston said. “Just giving him today and tomorrow, a full practice, will help him get ready again. But a few days off shouldn’t be much for a young guy like that.”
Sprong can play in nine NHL games before his entry-level contract kicks in.
MATCHUP The Pens will face a Stars team that can skate with incredible speed and score at will. Reigning NHL scoring champion Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin rank No. 2 and 3 in the league in scoring right now with 10 points each. Benn’s six goals are the most in the NHL.
The Pens fared well against Dallas’ speed in the first matchup between the two clubs two weeks ago. They backtracked well, were alert on turnovers and were able to give themselves enough time to maintain their gap.
“I thought we had a good game against them that night,” Johnston said. “Dallas is a fast team, a counter-punch team. As soon as they get the puck on their breakouts they stretch the zone quickly. Our defense has to be aware of that. Our forwards have to be good on the forecheck.
“When we get the puck we have to be quick to counter. When a team jumps that fast you can always catch a team going the other way if you’re fast.”
GAME INFO Where: CONSOL Energy Center When: Thursday, 7 p.m. TV: ROOT Sports Radio: 105.9 the X, Penguins Radio Network Social: @penguins, @PensInsideScoop