Sun, 05 Dec 2021

Sputtering Stars aim for offense vs. powerful Penguins

Field Level Media
19 Oct 2021, 05:19 GMT+10

It's only a week and a few games into the season, but the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars, who will meet Tuesday night in the Steel City, already have established something of an identity.

The thing is, Pittsburgh is pleased with what it's shown so far, with no regulation losses, while Dallas has one win and has struggled to score.

The Penguins are averaging five goals a game, and they are doing that without some key offensive players.

Cornerstone centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are coming off surgery, with Malkin out at least several more weeks; top-line winger Jake Guentzel missed the season opener after being in COVID-19 protocol; and fellow top-line winger Bryan Rust missed Saturday's 5-2 win over Chicago in the Penguins' home opener because of an upper-body injury and is out week to week.

Crosby, who had wrist surgery before training camp, seems close to playing but has been ruled out for Tuesday.

The Penguins have played a sharp, responsible style with an effective forecheck, and that has helped fill the gaps.

"Missing some of those guys, how good they are offensively, it's tough to fill their shoes," Pittsburgh forward Drew O'Connor said. "But I think there's a lot of really talented offensive players here that can step up and fill those roles a bit. I think we're kind of doing it by committee, which is how we need to play now."

Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Friedman left Monday's practice because of a lower-body injury, but defenseman Mike Matheson could make his season debut after dealing with a nagging lower-body injury.

"I felt good," Matheson said.

Dallas, coming off a 3-2 loss Sunday at Ottawa, is averaging only two goals a game this season.

"We've got some guys trying to find their game," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "We've got guys frustrated with their game. We're just going to have to play our way through it. Our top guys have not found their game on a consistent basis."

In particular, Dallas could use more from top-end players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Their only combined point is one assist from Benn.

Seguin called the situation "frustrating."

"I don't think it's too early to say your best players have got to be your best players, our top couple lines," Seguin said. "We get paid to produce, and we haven't found that yet."

Sunday against the Senators, Seguin and Benn had just one shot apiece, and those did not come on the power play, which did not generate a shot in four minutes.

"We need to be better, especially myself," Benn said. "This is a tough league, and your best players have got to be your best players, especially on the road."

The Stars, who had a day off from practice Monday, have yet to play at home.

Dallas is playing without defenseman John Klingenberg, who has a lower-body injury from the season opener, and forwards Blake Comeau and Blake Comeau, who have upper-body injuries.

The latter two have not been on the road with the Stars but at least have a shot at joining the team and playing Tuesday.

"I would be hopeful that one of them could play on Tuesday, but I'd say 50-50 at best," Bowness said.

--Field Level Media

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