Penguins-Stars Preview

The Pittsburgh Penguins are concerned about their scoring woes as they play without top goal scorers Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. The Dallas Stars concede more goals against Eastern Conference foes than any club, though they have been outstanding against Metropolitan Division teams. Thursday night's star-studded matchup features Sidney Crosby and Tyler Seguin but will likely be missing Malkin and Hornqvist as the visiting Penguins look to avoid a fourth straight loss. Pittsburgh (39-21-10) has not dropped four straight in regulation since a six-game slide Dec. 29, 2011-Jan. 11, 2012. The Penguins have scored once during their current struggles. ''This is not a streak you want to run into at this time of year,'' Crosby said. ''The games are tight. We have to find a way." Malkin, who leads the club with 28 goals, has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. The team confirmed via Twitter on Wednesday the star center will not join the team on this trip. Hornqvist, tied with Crosby for second on Pittsburgh with 23 goals, sat out Tuesday's 2-0 loss at New Jersey with an undisclosed injury that will likely sideline him at least two more games. Pittsburgh was blanked for the eighth time despite a 35-19 edge in shots. "When you are missing some key guys out of the lineup, you have to make sure that you're still making plays, getting to the net and it's just up to us to finish, execute," defenseman Paul Martin said. The Penguins' offensive problems go back even further with one goal or none in five of their last six games. They are 1 for 22 on the power play in their last eight. ''The frustrating part of all of this is that we're still creating opportunities,'' Martin said. ''We're just not able to finish. That's the frustrating part." Seguin has 32 goals to lead all players in Thursday's contest for Dallas, the West's highest-scoring team at 3.07 goals per game. The Stars average a league-best 3.40 goals against East clubs. The problem is that is the same figure Dallas (32-28-10) is yielding versus the East for the NHL's worst mark. The Stars allow 3.23 goals per game overall. Dallas is 11-3-1 against Metropolitan opponents for the second-best mark among West clubs. That includes a 3-2 win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 16, in which they scored twice in the final 2:57. The Stars are 6-2-0 in their last eight, though they fell 3-0 to St. Louis on Sunday. Coach Lindy Ruff wasn't unhappy after watching his team's three-game win streak end despite holding a 28-21 advantage in shots. "We are where we want to be," Ruff said. "If we play like that, we'll win." Kari Lehtonen figures to start Thursday. He is 8-2-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average in his last 13 starts. It's less clear who Johnston will use in goal. Backup Thomas Greiss has started two games in this losing streak while entering in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury in the other one. Fleury has yielded three goals or more in five of his last seven outings. Crosby has 11 points in seven games against Dallas while Seguin has scored in five of his last six meetings with Pittsburgh.