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Game day preview: Penguins @ Stars

The Pittsburgh Penguins kick off the 2015-16 season ... deep in the heart of Texas! Learn about the opponent with some little nuggets here.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's finally here, opening game. The Pittsburgh Penguins start on the road against the new look Dallas Stars in the first game of the season for both teams.

Game time: 8:30 PM Eastern (stupid Central time)

TV: Root Sports

Last year: Stars went 2-0-0 vs Pens, first in October beating the Pens 3-2 (on a night you might remember when Dupuis got hit in the throat/neck by a Letang shot and got stretchered off the ice), then in March Dallas beat the Pens 2-1. It won't take too much for the Pens to have a better season series vs. Dallas in 2015-16 than last year.

SBN Stars blog: The very cool Defending Big D

Stars expected lines

Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Tyler Seguin

Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Patrick Sharp

Antoine Roussel - Mattias Janmark - Ales Hemsky

Travis Moen - Vern Fiddler - Patrick Eaves

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Thanks, coach

The two possible options are Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.

Lehtonen, traditionally has fared pretty well against the Pens with a 10-5-3 record, 2.62 GAA and .916 save % in his career when playing Pittsburgh.

Niemi has found success against the Pens as well, going 4-1-1, 2.66 and a .913 save %.

Of course, it's a new year and all of that, so past performance is no automatic indicator of what could happen tonight.

Adding Blackhawks

Despite not making the playoffs last season, Dallas is something of a trendy pick to do well this season, Justin Bourne from The Score likes them to win their division. One big reason? The addition of a couple of Cup winning Blackhawks. Patrick Sharp was a core player in Chi-town's 3 recent Cup wins, and the Stars got him for little in a trade due to his age (33) and high salary. Sharp scored 15 points (5g+10a) in 23 playoff games last spring.

They also signed 34-year old defenseman Johnny Oduya to a two-year contract in free agency. Oduya logged 24:45 per game in the playoffs as a key member of the defense.

The Stars will also welcome back an awesome young player, Val Nichushkin, who injured his knee just 8 games into the year last season. He could be a major force this season with his combination of size, speed and skill.

Put that together and you do get the look of a playoff team. 2 studs on the first line who are as skilled as anyone (Benn, Seguin), some forward depth beyond that (Sharp, Nichushkin, Spezza, Hemsky) and with the emergence of Klingberg and the addition of Oduya a vastly improved blue line from 12 months ago.

Guy I've never heard of

5-10 years ago I thought I knew every bit player, prospect and guy around. Now, I see lineups and think "hey, who is that?". So let's research that

22 year old Mattias Janmark made the NHL team out of camp in his first try, not bad at all. Janmark played with Frolunda of the Swedish league last year. Janmark will start in his natural position of center, according to Lindy Ruff.

Janmark was drafted in the 3rd round by the Red Wings, who traded his rights to Dallas (plus a 2nd round pick and another prospect) at the trade deadline for veteran rental Erik Cole. Cole got injured and appeared in 0 playoff games, so it's looking like this trade might really swing to the Stars favor.

I guess we'll see what he can do in his NHL regular season debut, playing on a line with Hemsky isn't chopped liver and will make for a great opportunity for the young player.

Guy you should keep an eye on

Impress your friends with some trivia and trivial knowledge

#3 John Klingberg is one of the best young defensemen in the league, and perhaps flying a little under the radar. Last season was the rookie's first in the NHL, and what a season it was as he scored 11 goals added 29 assists for 40 points in 65 games. That was good enough to finish 5th in the Calder voting for rookie of the year, and impressive enough that Dallas locked Klingberg up with a 7-year contract extension worth a cap hit of $4.25 million dollars per year.

Klingberg has been compared to his countryman Erik Karlsson. Both are great skaters, possess awesome puck skills and were seemingly impossibly light (150-160 pound range) when drafted. Now at 23 years old the Stars offically list Klingberg at 180 pounds, but no word if he had some ankle weights on when he stepped on the scales.

The Pens need to be mindful of Klingberg and not let him burn them in transition.

Old Friends

Looking at the ex-Penguins on tonight's opponent

Only one former Penguin on the Stars, that being defenseman Alex Goligoski, who has been in Dallas since 2011 in the James Neal trade. Goligoski is now 30 years old (!!) and has seemingly been around forever, he was the Pens second round draft pick in 2004.

Goose has been named an alternate captain this season for the Stars, with whom he's played 303 games and according to the article has led Dallas in ice-time every season he's been there. As much as Pittsburgh was happy with the trade return of Neal and Matt Niskanen, the Stars got themselves a #1 defenseman out of the deal, even though in Pittsburgh as we all know he wouldn't have been seen or utilized in such a role.

Goligoski is a free agent at season's end and it will be interesting to see what his future holds. I would assume he probably wants to stay, and the Stars would want to keep him as well, so we'll see if they agree on money and years or if he hits the unrestricted market at still a relatively young age.

Infographic from the Pens


Enjoy the game everyone! Go Pens!