Who: Dallas Stars (3-0-1, 7 points, 2nd place Western Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (2-3-0, 4 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division)
How to Watch: SN-PIT, BSSW, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: It doesn’t get any easier from here. The Penguins return to PPG Paints to face the undefeated Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.
Opponent Track: The Stars have earned at least one point in each of their first four games, but they’re facing the Penguins coming off of the team’s messiest win of the season so far. The Stars were leading the Philadelphia Flyers with fewer than 10 minutes left in regulation on Saturday when the Flyers scored two shorthanded tallies in the span of less than one minute to tie things up. The Stars still won— Joe Pavelski scored in overtime to secure a 5-4 win— but the third period marked a surprising collapse for what was one of the league’s top-five power plays last season.
Season Series: The Penguins won’t see the Stars again until March 22nd, when they head to Dallas on a three-game road trip that again includes a matchup with the Avalanche.
Last Year: The Pens and Stars split the 2022-23 season series. An Evgeni Malkin goal in the last minute of regulation secured a 2-1 regulation win at home on December 12, while a Pierre-Olivier Joseph tally in the last ten minutes in Dallas on March 23 wasn’t enough to overcome an early Stars lead in a 3-2 loss.
Hidden Stat: If Evgeni Malkin hits twine tonight, he will mark his first five-game goal scoring streak since February 2018, per Pens PR.
Getting to know the Stars
Projected Game Lines (from Saturday’s game)
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski
Jamie Benn - Wyatt Johnston - Evgeni Dadonov
Mason Marchment - Matt Duchene - Tyler Seguin
Sam Steel - Radek Faksa - Craig Smith
Ryan Suter - Miro Heiskanen
Thomas Harley - Jani Hakanpää
Esa Lindell - Nils Lundkvist
Goalies: Jake Oettinger, Scott Wedgewood
Possible scratches: Ty Dellandrea, Joel Hanley
IR: Chase Wheatcroft, Jerad Rosburg
- Joe Pavelski’s overtime goal Saturday marked the 452nd tally of his career and moved him past Patrick Kane to rank sixth among all U.S.-born players on the NHL’s all-time scoring list, per NHL PR. The 39-year-old has three goals so far this season and looks like as much as a threat as ever.
- The Stars are (knock on wood) pretty much fully healthy at the moment following center Roope Hintz’s return from an upper-body injury in the Stars’ second game of the season.
- Wedgewood got the start Saturday against the Flyers, so the Penguins will expect to face Dallas starter Jake Oettinger. Oettinger has been solid through three starts, during which he has recorded a .943 save percentage and 1.58 goals-against average against the Blues, Knights and Ducks.
- The Penguins aren’t the only team with power play issues, if that wasn’t clear from the Stars’ three shorthanded goals against Saturday. Dallas has now allowed four shorties, almost matching the team’s entire 2022-23 regular-season total (5) through five games. Stars head coach Pete DeBoer called the team’s puck management “horrendous” after the win, so that’s undoubtedly something the Stars have been focusing on in practice this week.
And now for the Pens...
Projected Game Lines (from Monday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Drew O’Connor - Lars Eller - Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic
Expected scratches: P.O. Joseph, John Ludvig
Season opening IR: Raivis Ansons, Will Butcher
- The Pens stuck with the same lines and pairings from Saturday’s loss during Monday’s practice, according to Pens Inside Scoop.
- However, P.O. Joseph joined the third defense pairing halfway through the session, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Seth Rorabaugh.
- Bryan Rust took Rickard Rakell’s place on the first power-play unit Monday, while Rakell slotted into PP2. Radim Zohorna (0:00 in PP time in his first game) was also elevated to the second group.
#Pens PP units:— Josh Getzoff (@JG_PxP) October 23, 2023
PP1: Karlsson, Malkin, Guentzel, Crosby, Rust
PP2: Letang, Rakell, Zohorna, Carter, Smith
Mike Sullivan on what Rust adds to the first unit, per DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Taylor Haase:
“He’s really good at at tracking down, loose pucks, rebounds, 50-50 pucks that are up for grabs. A big part of a successful power play is your ability to retrieve those so they have sustained zone time. A lot of times you can create opportunity out of (puck retrievals) because teams are out of their structure. When there’s a 50-50 battle in the corner and you win that puck, opportunity a lot of times can present itself with a quick strike attack. One of the biggest parts of Rusty’s game that he brings to the power play is the ability to retrieve pucks.”