When: 2:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: Not just streaming this time! AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports Southwest (BSSW), NHL Network elsewhere in America
Opponent Track: The Dallas Stars emerged from a two-and-a-half week pause on January 6, during which 11 players— including captain Jamie Benn— went through COVID-19 protocol. They returned by facing the dangerous Florida Panthers after six postponed games. The game was a wild one; the score saw five separate ties, neither team ever led by more than one goal, and it took a shootout to decide the Stars’ 6-5 win. It wasn’t a blowout victory, but it showed that, although they sit four points out of a Pacific Division Wild Card spot, the Stars can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the league.
Pens path ahead: Next up is the Penguins’ California road trip, where fans looking to watch from the East Coast are in for a couple few late nights in Anaheim (10 p.m. EST, January 11), Los Angeles (10:30 p.m., January 15) and San Jose (10 p.m., January 20). The team will finish out their longest road trip of the season in Las Vegas on January 17.
Season Series: Saturday marks the second, and last, time these two teams will meet this season. The Stars sometimes have trouble racking up goals— they rank 19th in the NHL with 2.87 goals for per game heading into January 7, and they’ve been held to two or fewer goals 12 times, during which they’ve gone 1-1-10. Guess who that single win was against? That’s right— the Stars needed just two goals, including one in the shootout, to down the Crosby- and Rust-less Penguins, 2-1, on October 19.
Opponent blog: Check out Defending Big D, which managed to post fun-to-read Stars coverage even when there were no Stars to cover during the COVID-19 pause in Dallas.
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski
Denis Gurianov - Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin
Joel Kiviranta - Jacob Peterson - Alexander Radulov
Michael Raffl - Radek Faksa - Luke Glendening
Esa Lindell / John Klingberg
Ryan Suter / Miro Heiskanen
Thomas Harley / Jani Hakanpaa
Possible Starting Goalie: Jake Oettinger (Braden Holtby backup)
Scratches: Joel Hanley, Adam Scheel, Andrej Sekera
COVID Protocol: None, finally.
IR: Tanner Kero
—After 17 days of non-action, this will be the Stars’ second game in less than 48 hours. Braden Holtby faced 42 shots during three periods and overtime, then turned aside two skaters in Thursday’s shootout, so the Penguins will likely be facing 23-year-old Jake Oettinger, who has a 9-7-2 record, .922 SV% and 2.24 GAA in 10 games this season.
—The Stars’ first line (Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski) is the one to watch. The trio has carried the team for stretches of 2021-22 and have combined for almost a third of the Stars’ total points production this season.
—Dallas boasts one of the best power plays in the NHL; at a 27% conversion rate, the Stars sit seventh in the League. Joe Pavelski, who leads the team with six power-play strikes, is a threat, especially low down on the right side.
A rollercoaster Stars season
Before their 17-day COVID-19 pause, the Stars strung together a seven-day win streak from November 20 to December 6— then marked five straight regulation losses from December 8 to December 17. During the win streak, the team averaged 3.5 goals for; during the losing stretch, just 1.4.
The Stars’ defense is one of the more porous in the NHL (Dallas ranks 17th in the League with 3.97 GAA/GP; Pittsburgh boasts the No. 4 ranking at 2.48). In 16 wins, the Stars have only won once when scoring fewer than three goals. Their success in racking up that much offense has varied, making them an unpredictable opponent.
And now for the Pens
Previous Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evan Rodrigues - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Kasper Bjorkqvist - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Projected Starting Goalie: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith as backup)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Jeff Carter (recovering from COVID-19 symptoms)
COVID Protocol: Drew O’Connor
IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee), Jason Zucker (lower body)
Taxi Squad: Juuso Riikola, Louis Domingue (Radim Zohorna has been re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.)
—Both Carter and Malkin have been described as “close” to a return, and the Penguins have been clearing some roster space. Saturday’s biggest question: will we see the Penguins’ superstar second-line center make his season debut today? And if so, how will that shuffle the lines? The only thing certain, if these two centers return, is that the first line— the red-hot trio of Guentzel, Crosby and Rust— will stay untouched.
—Heading into January 7, the Penguins have climbed to ninth in the NHL. With 45 points, they’re just six points from moving up to No. 1— and they have three games in hand on the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning (51).
Milestone and streak watch
- The Penguins are on a ten-game winning streak for the first time since 2013. If they can make it 11, they’ll move to tie for the fourth-longest victory streak in franchise history (matching 11 straight wins from Feb. 21 to March 17, 2012).
- Since rejoining the roster on January 2, Rust has begun a stunning scoring streak by racking up seven goals in three games. He’ll look to extend that to four this afternoon.
- Sidney Crosby (1,349) tied Mats Sundin for 29th place in all-time NHL points production on Thursday. A point tonight would move him to 28th on the all-time list, where he will sit just three points behind Guy Lafleur (1,353).
- The era of Jake Guentzel domination continues: although not an official point streak (injury kept him from the lineup from December 7 to January 1), he has points in the last 16 games he’s skated in and racked up a whopping 25 points (15-10—25).