DALLAS -- Since a 4-2 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh Oct. 18, the Stars have won three in a row and allowed one goal a game in the process. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost three straight and has scored four goals total in the process. A lot can change in the NHL in a week.
The Stars are starting to see some jump from Corey Perry, who missed the entire preseason and first seven games of the season with a broken bone in his foot, and also from Denis Gurianov, who was recalled from the AHL five games ago and has two goals and an assist in his past three games.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, could get both Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad back. Rust hurt his hand in preseason and has yet to play this season. He had 18 goals in 72 games last year. Bjugstad suffered a lower body injury in the second game of the season. He had nine goals in 34 games with the Penguins last season after being acquired in a trade with Florida.
Asked is a lot has changed for both teams in the last week, Stars coach Jim Montgomery said: "Significantly."
"That's the grind in the NHL, the injuries and also how your doing positively or negatively at the time you play each other," Montgomery said.
Video: PIT@DAL: Montgomery breaks down the Pens
The Penguins still are missing Evgeni Malkin (lower body) and Alex Galchenyuk (lower body). The Stars still are missing Blake Comeau (lower body) and Roman Polak (sternum). So the battle to find each other's game still is ongoing.
Montgomery is going to reward Gurianov for his two-goal game against Anaheim Thursday and will move the rookie up to a line with Tyler Seguin. To do that, Joe Pavelski will have to slide to a line with Justin Dowling. All of that could change in a few minutes tonight, but there are messages being sent throughout the team in hopes of improving the scoring average, which is worst in the NHL at 2.08 goals per game.
"We think there is chemistry on the Hintz line, and Denis looks like he's ready to jump off the page," Montgomery said of the decision to swap a few wingers around. "We haven't seen great chemistry with Seggy yet, so it's an opportunity for him (Gurianov) to develop chemistry. Faksy and Rads played well two games ago, and Dowling and Cogliano, we'd like to see what Pavelski can do with them."
The Stars are in the middle of six-of-seven games at home and are hoping to take advantage in their pursuit to get back to .500 after a 1-7-1 start to the season. They lost 4-2 in Pittsburgh, but they are 6-1-1 in their past eight games against Pittsburgh at American Airlines Center, so they are hoping home ice can make a difference.
"It's Saturday night in Big D, and we've got to make it hard on people to come in here," Montgomery said. "I think we have to be emotionally involved right from the start."
What to watch
Sidney Crosby comes to town once a year, so it's a thrill to see him in person.
The 32-year-old center is 40th all-time in NHL history in scoring with 1,230 points. He has done all of that in 954 games, so that makes him sixth in NHL history in points per game (among qualified players) at 1.289.
[GAME DAY GUIDE: Everything you need to know for Stars vs. Penguins]
Crosby has 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 17 career games against the Stars and is plus-8 in that span. He brings out the best in Dallas centers, as they really do get hyped up to play against him. Watch Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa tonight, because they both enjoy the challenge.
Faksa said Crosby was his idol growing up.
Crosby has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 11 games this season. He had no points in the Stars' game last week.
Bishop in net for Stars
Ben Bishop gets the start in goal. He is 2-2-0 in his career against the Penguins with a 2.38 GAA and .920 save percentage. Bishop is 3-4-1 on the season with a 2.38 GAA and .920 save percentage.
Gurianov jumps up onto a line with Seguin and Mattias Janmark. We'll see how long that lasts. Gurianov had two pretty goals on the fourth line last week, but played just 10:52. Montgomery would like to get more minutes for Gurianov.
[READ MORE: Searching for chemistry, scoring, Stars won't break from 'identity']
The challenge then comes for players like Alexander Radulov and Pavelski because they might get their minutes decreased. We'll see.
Miro Heiskanen is getting shuffled around on defense, because he can do so many things. He will start with John Klingberg, who has seen his minutes go up and down this season. Heiskanen could also be used with Andrej Sekera. Again, we'll see.
Pittsburgh is saying that both Rust and Bjugstad are game-time decisions, so we're not sure on their lineup right now.
By the numbers
John Klingberg has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in nine career games against the Penguins. Klingberg is off to a slow start this season with three points (one goal, two assists) in 12 games. His minus-7 is worst on the Stars.
Pittsburgh has been shorthanded 26 times, fifth least in the NHL. Dallas has been shorthanded 41 times, fifth most in the NHL. Dallas has killed 82.9 percent of its penalties, ranking 12th in the NHL in success rate. Pittsburgh has killed 80.8 percent, ranking 15th.
Pittsburgh has outscored opponents 19-12 in second periods this season. Those19 goals are the second-most for any NHL team in second periods. Dallas has scored six second-period goals, ranking 29th in the league.
He said it
"I think his last three games have been his best three games and probably been the most consistent skating games and physical games he's had. I think he's feeling good about his game and we need him to continue to build upon it."
-- Montgomery on Jamie Benn. The 30-year-old left wing had no points Thursday in a 2-1 win over Anaheim, but had four shots on goal, five hits and three takeaways.
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Corey Perry
Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Denis Gurianov
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Justin Dowling - Joe Pavelski
Miro Heiskanen - John Klingberg
Andrej Sekera - Esa Lindell
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun
Scratched: D Joel Hanley
Injuries: LW Blake Comeau (lower body), D Roman Polak (sternum), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.