Who: Dallas Stars (16-7-5, 37 points, 2nd place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (16-8-4, 36 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sports Network Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) for the home team, Bally Sports Southwest for the visitors, TVAS up in Canada, Sling TV, ESPN+
Opponent Track: This is the opening game of a five-game road trip for the Stars. They just completed five games in a row at home, going 3-1-1 along the way. Extra hockey has been the norm lately, with three of the last four Dallas games requiring at least overtime to settle, including the last two games (both Dallas victories, over Ottawa and then Detroit on Saturday in their previous game).
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens only have one more game this week, jetting down to Florida in a few days to meet the Panthers on Thursday night. They’ll stay on the road to meet Carolina next Sunday, before coming home to play the Rangers and then Hurricanes again prior to their four day Christmas break coming up on December 23-26.
Season Series: Tonight is game one of the season series, the Pens make their trip to Dallas late in the season on Thursday March 23rd.
Getting to know the Stars
SB Nation counterpart: Defending Big D
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski
Mason Marchment - Radek Faksa - Tyler Seguin
Jamie Benn - Wyatt Johnston - Ty Dellandrea
Joel Kiviranta - Luke Glendening - Denis Gurianov
Miro Heiskanen / Nils Lundkvist
Ryan Suter / Colin Miller
Esa Lindell / Jani Hakanpaa
Goalies: Jake Oettinger (Scott Wedgewood)
Scratches: Joel Hanley
—It’s been the Jason Robertson show in Dallas this fall. After a protracted restricted free agency ended just before the start of the regular season, Robertson has somehow improved on last season (where he scored 41 goals and 79 points). Robertson just had a franchise-record 18 game point streak broken on Tuesday. During that streak, he recorded an unbelievable sounding 21 goals and 34 total points.
—Robertson only has 0G+1A in the last three games, which depending on your perspective is either fortunate timing to have the Pens not see him during his absolute peak, or worrying that he might get going again soon. This also marks the only time so far this season that Robertson has gone three straight games without a goal. Making that four will be a massive challenge.
—Love a good “old guy and a young guy on the same line and both benefiting” and that’s happened so far with Jamie Benn and 19-year old former 2021 first round pick Wyatt Johnston. The last few years have not been kind to Benn, who only scored 18, 11 and 19 goals over the previous three seasons after averaging 34 goals per season in his peak from 2013-19. This year Benn’s back on a 32-goal pace.
—The 2017 draft was a thing of dreams for the Stars. They ended up having three picks in the top 39 of that draft, and hit grand slams on all three of them. Heiskanen was the third overall pick and a potential Norris at least finalist type of player....Then towards the end of the first round at pick No. 26 the Stars got Oettinger who is paying off as a franchise goalie...And then Robertson was sitting there at No. 39 and looks like a potential contender for MVP/Art Ross/Rocket Richard trophies in the future. That’s a franchise-defining run of picks right there.
—NHL teams need 18 skaters per game, Dallas has 15 players who have dressed for 27 or 28 of their total games so far this year. That number grows to 17 guys who have played at least 25 games. Incredible run of health and good fortune to have all of their important players stay extremely available in the early portion of the season down in Dallas.
—Nils Lundqvist is an interesting player worth watching. He was formerly on the Rangers, but disgruntled with his position in that organization and got an off-season trade to Dallas. Lundqvist has a lot of skill and the ability to make things happen in a positive way for his team (he has 2G+1A in the last two games), but also as a young defender is prone to adventures and mistakes along the way.
—Oettinger has only played one game against the Penguins (a game Dallas won and he stopped 27/29 shots) .
Head to head
Except for Dallas’ significant advantages in power play goals and finishing, it would be tough to find two more similar teams than the Pens and Stars. Pittsburgh is a little better in generating expected goals, but Dallas is a little better in preventing shot attempts, otherwise they’re practically mirror images of one another with great 5v5 play, quality goaltending and strong PK’s.
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling - Teddy Blueger - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson / Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Danton Heinen, Chad Ruhwedel
—Tristan Jarry has a 1.93 GAA and .931 save% over his career in two games against Dallas, but just an 0-1-1 record. Casey DeSmith is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .946 save% in two games against the Stars, so either way the Pens have a good historical matchup with their goalie’s performances.
—Bryan Rust hasn’t had much success against the Stars over the years, with no goals and one assist in six career games against Dallas....Crosby also “only” has 20 points in 19 career games against DAL, marking one of his least scored on opponents in the NHL.