Last season, the Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins made a blockbuster deal that changed the way that both teams look on the ice. Now, the two are fighting for playoff positioning in their respective conferences as they battle it out on Wednesday night in Big D.
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There is a heck of a lot of confidence right now in the Pens, as they are sitting pretty with the second best record in the Eastern Conference with 77 points. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be able to do better than the No. 4 seed in the playoffs because they aren’t going to run down the New York Rangers in all likelihood, but just the fact that they are now basically safe for a playoff spot in spite of the fact that they have had a season that has been riddled with injuries is remarkable. James Neal, the man that came over from Dallas in that big time deal last year that sent Alex Goligoski back to the Stars, is having a fantastic year. He and Evgeni Malkin have over 140 points between them this year, and they are arguably the best tandem that hockey has to offer right now. Not bad for a team that hasn’t had Sidney Crosby for basically the whole season, eh? Scoring two goals tonight makes Pittsburgh the third team in the East to log 200 goals on the season, a great accomplishment without a doubt.
Few thought that the Stars were truly going to be competitive this season in the Pacific Division. As it turns out, the division hasn’t been as good as it has been in years past, but regardless of that, Dallas is still hanging in there. The team is right on the playoff bubble right now in the Western Conference, but it has two different routes to get into the playoffs. With 70 points, the Stars are level with the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche for the last playoff spot available, but they are also just five points back of the Phoenix Coyotes, the division leaders right now. Though Dallas didn’t make any earth shattering moves at the deadline, the team is still confident that it can ride Kari Lehtonen to the postseason. The Stars do have six fewer goals scored than they have allowed this year, but the 33 wins is rock solid and is tied for the most in the Pacific Division. The team is winning the close games and isn’t leaving all that many points behind in overtime losses; its four losses in OT or shootouts this year is tied for the second fewest in the league.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Dallas Stars Pick: At home, Dallas has 18 wins this year in 32 tries. We tend to think that it should get the nod in this one, though nothing would truly surprise us. Neal should be welcomed back with open arms to Big D, but in the end, he and Malkin don’t have enough to topple the Stars at the American Airlines Center.
Free Hockey Pick: Dallas Stars
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.