Preview: Pittsburgh at Dallas
When: 8:30 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
The Pittsburgh Penguins wasted little time creating the biggest splash of the offseason by acquiring five-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel. The 28-year-old forward will make his debut with two-time Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby and company when the Penguins play their season opener against the host Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Acquired from Toronto on July 1, Kessel has hit the ground running by scoring a team-high three goals and five points in the preseason. Pittsburgh will vie for its 10th consecutive postseason appearance in 2015-16, although it wishes for a longer stay than its five-game stint in a first-round loss to the New York Rangers. While the Penguins’ offense failed to get untracked versus the Rangers, Dallas had no such issues last season as it netted a league second-best 257 goals. Jamie Benn finished with a career-high 87 points to win the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15, but a pair of offseason hip surgeries have raised questions about the health of the team’s captain.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Southwest (Dallas)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (2014-15: 43-27-12, 4TH IN METROPOLITAN): Pittsburgh addressed its depth on offense by acquiring bottom-six forwards Eric Fehr (Washington) and Nick Bonino (Vancouver), but failed to adequately update its defense in the offseason. While top blue-liner Kris Letang has returned to health after missing 89 games due to injury over the last three seasons, the Penguins parted ways with veterans Paul Martin (San Jose) and Christian Ehrhoff (Los Angeles). Marc-Andre Fleury remained steady between the pipes last season, but is expected to need an even greater effort given the team’s defensive troubles.
ABOUT THE STARS (2014-15: 41-31-10, 6TH IN CENTRAL): Dallas’ offense only got better in the offseason as Patrick Sharp (Chicago) joins Tyler Seguin (career high-tying 37 goals) and Benn on the top line. Fellow former Blackhawk Johnny Oduya looks to help a beleaguered defense that yielded an NHL fourth-worst 3.13 goals per contest. Goaltender Antti Niemi (San Jose), who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, will share time in the crease with Kari Lehtonen – but coach Lindy Ruff refused to divulge the name of Thursday’s starter.
1. Pittsburgh has won four straight season openers.
2. Dallas D Alex Goligoski, a former Penguin, recorded 32 assists in 2014-15.
3. Pittsburgh posted an 18-6-4 mark versus Western Conference representatives last season.
PREDICTION: Penguins 4, Stars 3