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Stars-Penguins Preview

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars

Thursday, October 8

7:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

About the Stars

After missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, the Stars brought in some winning experience from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. They traded for forward Patrick Sharp (three Cups in six years) and signed defenseman Johnny Oduya (two Cups in three years). They also acquired goaltender Antti Niemi, who backstopped Chicago to the Stanley Cup in 2010.

“Those players are very strong, and they’ve won before,” said Stars center Cody Eakin. “They can bring that to our organization, share some of that knowledge and the way they play and pass it on to a lot of us who haven’t been there.”

The Stars were one of the top scoring teams in the league last season, and they should be again this season, but they struggled keeping the puck out of their net in 2014-15. Team defense is a key focus this season and Pittsburgh will present a stiff challenge opening night.

“For me, you’ve got an offensive side there with [Phil] Kessel, [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin. They’ve probably got five or six premier offensive guys and [Kris] Letang on the backend,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “[Marc-Andre] Fleury in net is a big-time goaltender. They’ve got a quick-strike offense that we’ve got to do the right thing with the puck. I think at the same time, with our speed, we can take advantage of their defense.”

The Stars do not have any reported injuries heading into Thursday.

Ruff would not reveal whether Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen would start in goal.

Injuries: None

About the Penguins

The Penguins have made the playoffs nine straight years, but they have made it past the second round only once in the past six. So, this offseason they added some firepower in forward Phil Kessel, acquired from Toronto. Kessel has been skating with Sidney Crosby recently, but chances are he’ll get time on a line with Evgeni Malkin as well.

“Guys who can score like he can, they don’t come around often,” Crosby told the Penguins official site. “To have him on your team, to know he’s one chance away anywhere in the offensive zone, it’s nice to have that.”

The Penguins will see plenty of firepower and speed on the other side of the ice with the Stars Thursday, and puck management was the phrase of the day Wednesday.

“They have a lot of high-end talent and try to play a lot of run-and-gun,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy told the Penguins website. “The key to that is taking care of the puck when we have it. A team like this thrives off of quick turnovers and taking the puck the other way and using their speed to make you uncomfortable.”

Pittsburgh is without a couple of forwards. Pascal Dupuis is expected to miss 4-5 weeks with a lower-body injury suffered in a preseason game over the weekend. Eric Fehr is expected to be out until November with an elbow injury.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the likely starter for Pittsburgh.

Injuries: LW Pascal Dupuis (lower body), RW Eric Fehr (elbow) and RW Tom Kuhnhackl (undisclosed) are out.

Series Notes

*This is the first of two meetings this season between the Stars and Penguins.

*The Stars were 2-0-0 against Penguins last season, winning 3-2 in Pittsburgh and 2-1 in Dallas.

*The Stars are 3-0-1 in their last four games against Pittsburgh at American Airlines Center.

*The Penguins have won four straight season openers.

Statistical tidbits

*Thursdays’ game features three of the top ten scorers in the league last season: Dallas’ Jamie Benn, 87 points (1st); Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, 84 points (third); Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, 77 points (7th).

*The Stars ranked second in goal scoring last season at 3.13 per game.

*The Penguins tied for tenth in goals against last season at 2.49 per game.

*The Stars were 1-6-0 in the preseason.

*Pittsburgh was 3-5-0 in the preseason.

*Seguin led Dallas in preseason scoring with five points (three goals, two assists) in five games.

*Phil Kessel led Pittsburgh in preseason scoring with five points (three goals, two assists) in four games.

*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 10-5-3 against Pittsburgh with a 2.62 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

*Stars goaltender Antti Niemi is 4-1-1 against Pittsburgh with a 2.66 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

*Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is 6-3-0 vs. Dallas with a 2.19 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

*Fleury led the NHL with ten shutouts last season.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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