Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (35-26-10, 80 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Dallas Stars (38-19-14, 90 points, 1st place Central Division)
When: 9:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: National game on ESPN
Opponent Track: The Stars forced OT against Seattle in their last game on Tuesday with a buzzer-beating third period game-tying goal by Jamie Benn, but Dallas would fall in overtime. Their record in the last 10 games is pretty good (6-3-1) but they’re also only 1-2-1 in the last four outings, so that’s up to how you look at it for how they’ve been lately.
Pens Path Ahead: This grind where Pittsburgh plays 11 games in 19 days from March 7-25 is mercifully almost over. The Pens return home to meet Washington on Saturday and then receive their first two-day break in a long time on Sunday and Monday. Next week the boys are in Detroit on Tuesday and then host Nashville next Thursday as the regular season ambles on.
Season Series: The first PIT/DAL game of the season was back on December 12th in Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin sent the fans home happy by breaking a 1-1 tie with a game-winning goal 35 seconds before the end of regulation. Tristan Jarry stopped 26/27 in the win, a rare low-scoring, low-event type of game for the Pens.
Hidden Stat: Including their OT loss on Tuesday, the Stars are only 4-11 in games decided in OT and they’re 3-3 in shootouts. (Pittsburgh is 8-9 in OT and 1-1 in shootouts this season).
Getting to know the Stars
SBN partner blog: Defending Big D
Potential Game Lines
Jason Robertson — Roope Hintz — Joe Pavelski
Max Domi — Radek Faksa — Ty Dellandrea
Jamie Benn — Wyatt Johnston — Evgenii Dadonov
Joel Kiviranta — Luke Glendening — Fredrik Olofsson
Miro Heiskanen / Colin Miller
Esa Lindell / Jani Hankanpaa
Ryan Suter / Joel Hanley
Goalies: Jake Oettinger (Remi Poirer)
Scratches: Scott Wedgewood (injured), Mason Marchment (injury), Tyler Seguin (injury)
—Johnston, the rookie sensation, is on a five-game goal scoring streak
—Oettinger has been the Stars’ workhorse, starting eight of the last nine games, and 14 of the last 17. Overall his 54 games played ranks second among NHL goalies (Connor Hellebuyck, 55).
—Dallas hasn’t been immune from injuries, Seguin has been out since March 9th when he caught a skate to the leg and required stitches. He’s been on the ice lately and his return could be soon. Marchment is out for a while, but they hope back before the end of the regular season.
—The Stars having five players with 60+ points is tops in the NHL right now for most teammates hitting those marks. From there, they have a big fall-off in depth scoring, though the team made moves and is hoping players like Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi can help fortify them in those areas.
—It’s been a great career resurgence for Jamie Benn. The previous three seasons to this year he scored 39, 35 and 46 points. He’s back over 70, for the first time since 2017-18.
—The Penguins would be only too thrilled to find the next version of Wyatt Johnston in the 2023 NHL draft. The 19-year old was selected deep into the first round back in 2021 (23rd overall) and in this rookie season has emerged to score 20+ goals and likely 40+ points when it’s all said and done. But, as a reminder, players like Johnston are the exception, not the rule to get to the NHL so quickly and from that low into the draft. Everyone else selected in 2021 draft from 13th-32nd other than Johnston have a combined one total NHL game played to date.
King of the crease
It looked like Joe Pavelski might have been slowing down in 2019-20. He only scored 31 points (14G+17A) in 67 games in his first season with the Stars, and his first change of teams after coming over as a free agent from his long-time home in San Jose. Pavelski was 35-36 years old and that’s a reasonable time player’s offensive numbers start drying up in a major way.
Yet, Pavelski has found a new gear. Since the start of the 2020-21 season, Pavelski has 198 points in 209 games — getting back up to virtually a consistent point/game pace deep into his 30’s. His offense in front of the net is as strong as ever and Pavelski has long been known as one of the best players in NHL history at effectively tipping and re-directing shots and made a living using his frame near the goalies. Pavelski was recognized by his peers as “most effective around the net” in the NHLPA’s recently released player poll.
.@jpav8 has made the front of the net his own personal office.— NHLPA (@NHLPA) March 22, 2023
The @DallasStars veteran has been voted as the most effective around the net in this year’s #NHLPAPlayerPoll. pic.twitter.com/vf7bQesSZO
And now for the Pens...
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Ryan Poehling - Mikael Granlund
Drew O’Connor - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
P.O. Joseph / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Chad Ruhwedel
Mark Friedman / Taylor Fedun
Goalies: Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Alex Nylander, Jeff Petry (upper-body injury), Jan Rutta
IR: Dmitry Kulikov (out week-to-week, lower-body injury, LTIR), Nick Bonino (out week-to-week, lacerated kidney, LTIR), Marcus Pettersson (lower body, LTIR)
—Didn’t put this in the recap last night, but in the two games that Petry and Pettersson have been out, Kris Letang has played 29:33 and 29:03, with neither of those games going to overtime. Letang’s had a rocky season filled with triumphs and failures on and off the ice, but he’s probably playing some of his strongest hockey of the year lately, and when the team needs it most.