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Stars hope to rebound in Pittsburgh
(SportsNetwork.com) - It was a rough weekend for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars, though it had much more of an impact on the playoff race for the latter franchise.
The two clubs hope to rebound on Tuesday night when Dallas takes aim at its first victory in Pittsburgh in over 13 years.
The Stars have been held to just one point over their last two games after winning three in a row. They blew a two-goal lead on Friday to fall to the Calgary Flames in a shootout and were then routed 7-2 by the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
Dallas took a one-goal lead in the first period when Alex Chiasson and Tyler Seguin scored in a 37-second span, but Winnipeg exploded for the next six goals, chasing starter Tim Thomas from the game.
Thomas was lifted 29 seconds into the second period after giving up his fourth goal on 17 shots faced. Cristopher Nilstorp also faced 17 Winnipeg shots and allowed three goals.
Dallas is two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the second wild card position in the Western Conference.
"We're not playing the right way," Stars forward Jamie Benn said. "These games are hard to win late in the year. Teams are gearing up for the playoffs and teams that aren't in the playoffs have nothing to lose. Tonight we just got outworked start to finish."
The captain added that Dallas probably won't watch too much video of this loss.
"We've got 15 games left. We can't be worried about this one. We're still in a good spot. We hold our own fate here. We've got to move on and get ready for the next game."
Thomas made his third straight start since No. 1 Kari Lehtonen suffered a concussion, but Lehtonen appears close to a return seeing as the Stars reassigned Nilstorp to the minors on Monday.
It is unknown if Lehtonen, who has already returned to practice, will start tonight or if it will be Thomas. Lehtonen is 8-4-3 with a 2.61 goals against average in his career versus the Penguins, while Thomas is 8-7-4 with a 2.85 GAA in the matchup.
Lehtonen posted a 24-save shutout in a 3-0 home victory over the Penguins on Jan. 25, just the Stars' second victory in the previous nine meetings.
Pittsburgh, though, has outscored Dallas by a 20-7 margin over a five-game series home winning streak and the Stars have not won in the Steel City since Dec. 23, 2000.
The Penguins hold a 14-point edge over Philadelphia for first place in the Metropolitan Division, but were swept in a home-and-home set by the Flyers over the weekend. Pittsburgh was blanked 4-0 on the road Saturday, then lost 4-3 to Philadelphia the following afternoon.
Marc-Andre Fleury yielded all four goals on Saturday, then was pulled after giving up three goals on 15 shots through 14 minutes of work on Sunday. Jeff Zatkoff made 19 saves, but also yielded the game-deciding tally to take the loss.
Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Jayson Megna scored for the Penguins, while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were both held without a single point in both contests.
"We'll keep working. We'll keep trying to do the right things," Niskanen said. "Focus on details and our work ethic and keep plugging away here."
Pittsburgh had won three straight before the sweep and played without Chris Kunitz (lower body) and James Neal (concussion) over the weekend. Pittsburgh is also still without defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang as well as forward Pascal Dupuis.
"You gotta be prepared to do what you need to do on any given shift no matter who you play with," Megna said of the line changing due to injuries and call ups.
The Penguins did see Letang, Neal, Kunitz and forward Beau Bennett return to practice on Monday. Neal and Kunitz could both return as soon as tonight, while there is no return date for Letang or Bennett.
Letang has not played since suffering a stroke on Jan. 29, while Bennett has been out since sustaining a hand/wrist injury on Nov. 22 that required surgery.
Overall, the Penguins have lost 413 man games due to injury this season.
Fleury should get the start tonight for the Penguins and has solid career numbers versus the Stars, going 6-1-0 with a 2.10 GAA.
03/18 11:08:22 ET