Posted February 28, 2012 on AP on Fox
Neither the Pittsburgh Penguins nor the Dallas Stars made any trades this week, but a deal they struck before last season's deadline should still be the talk of the rink Wednesday night. James Neal has blossomed into a star since Dallas sent him to the Penguins, but the surging Stars are hoping to spoil his initial return to Texas and claim a fifth straight victory. Alex Goligoski hasn't exactly been a disappointment for Dallas (33-26-4), leading the team's defensemen with 26 points while averaging more ice time than any other Stars skater. But Neal, traded with defenseman Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Goligoski on Feb. 21, 2011, has posted career highs with 30 goals and 31 assists while providing a huge boost to a Penguins team that has lacked Sidney Crosby for most of the season. He's already torched his former team once, scoring twice Nov. 11 in a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh - a game in which Goligoski broke his thumb. After contributing just eight points in 27 games including playoffs following the trade, Neal has made such an impact that the Penguins rewarded him with a six-year contract extension worth $30 million earlier this month. "I love everything about what goes on here and how we play the game," Neal said after signing the deal Feb. 19. "I couldn't see myself anywhere else, and hopefully the success continues." The Penguins (36-21-5) hit the road after a very successful homestand during which they outscored opponents 14-3 while going 3-0-0, but they'll visit a Dallas team playing like it's on a mission to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2008. After winning four straight for the first time in nearly four months, the Stars are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They beat one of the West's top teams Sunday, getting a late equalizer from Mike Ribeiro - on a deflection of Goligoski's shot - before Loui Eriksson scored in overtime of a 3-2 victory over Vancouver. The Stars stood pat at the trade deadline, but they should get a boost Wednesday from second-leading scorer Jamie Benn, who is expected to return after missing the last six games with a leg laceration. "I've told the coaches I'm ready to go," Benn said, according to the Stars' Twitter feed. "I think we have the group in here to make the playoffs. The guys have shown they can play with and beat the best." Ribeiro and Eriksson have powered the win streak, with Ribeiro extending his point streak to seven games. Eriksson has a goal in each of the last three, totaling five points in that stretch. Kari Lehtonen has been outstanding in winning three straight starts, stopping 83 of 86 shots, but he's 1-3-0 with a 3.53 goals-against average in his last four against the Penguins. No goalie is eager to see Evgeni Malkin right now. Perhaps the Hart Trophy front-runner, Malkin leads the NHL with 78 points and has 20 goals in his last 20 games, helping Pittsburgh to a 15-4-1 stretch. "We want to catch the (New York) Rangers," said defenseman Kris Letang, although the Penguins remain nine points behind the East leaders. Neal set up Malkin's power-play tally late in the second period during a 4-2 win over Columbus on Sunday. Marc-Andre Fleury figures to be back in net after getting Sunday off. He's won all five career outings versus Dallas while posting a 1.77 GAA, and he's 13-2-1 in his last 16 starts overall.

Stars have many options with trade deadline

In the 12 days since I spent 1500 words talking about the Stars and their need to be sellers on this trade deadline day, a few things have happened. For instance, they lost their best player and leading scorer to a skate laceration and still await his return which could be less than a week away. They also lost a back-to-back set of games the following weekend against the Coyotes...

How to stop worrying about Paul Martin and embrace him

At one point or another, we've all been frustrated with Paul Martin. He has had some ******** turnovers, he has been less than stellar in his defensive zone. His offensive game hasn't been strong, and his shot is average at best. But it is now time to move past all of this. Back in 2006, when we started blogging, one of our main goals was to defend Sergei...

Game 64 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Dallas Stars

Pittsburgh Penguins (36-21-5, 77 pts) @ Dallas Stars (33-26-4, 70 pts) 6:30 PM CT, February 26, 2012 American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas Stars: As improbable as it seemed just two weeks ago, the Stars have somehow rallied together and enter tonight's game on a four game win streak. They remain tied with the LA Kings and the Colorado Avalanche for the eighth spot in the...

Eklund: Ott Watch Isn't Over -- Just Delayed Temporarily

One of the more intriguing subplots to the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline was the internal debate within the Dallas Stars organization over whether the club should trade or hold onto Steve Ott. The sheer number of teams that wanted to acquire one of the NHL's prime agitators -- and more underrated clutch performers -- drove the offering prices close to the level where Dallas was tempted...

Dupuis, Fleury lift Pens over Stars

Pascal Dupuis converted in the fourth round of the shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight, 4-3 over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.

Penguins general manager Shero OK with coming up empty at trade deadline

It wasn't that Penguins GM Ray Shero wasn't willing to make a move. But he was only willing to make it on his terms.

Roger Mussa: Will Devils look different tonight vs Rangers? Play Uncle Lou

Typically the Devils, or should I say... Uncle Lou, rarely gets action on trade deadline day. Many believe his deadline move happened on Friday with the acquisition of Zidlicky. As typical. A few names have popped up as Todd Cordell mentioned Steve Ott from the Stars. The Devils have a history with Dallas on the trade front and Steve Ott would be a perfect Devils - as John...

Penguins' Letang out with upper-body injury

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang left Wednesday night's game against the Dallas Stars in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

Law & Order: PPU

Thanks to my bud Benson for sending over his latest. It's a shot-for-shot redo of the classic opening from Law & Order: SVU. But with the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's exclusive to Facebook, so follow this link and make sure you've "liked" Benstonium if you haven't already. I never got into any Law & Order. But Christopher Meloni was unreal in Wet...

Ray Shero 2012 Trade Deadline Transcript

Penguins general manager addressed the media following the end of the NHL's 3 p.m. trade deadline. Opening statement: Just to confirm that we were not active today. Nobody going and nobody coming. Our roster is our roster moving forward. ...

Penguins' Letang hurt vs. Stars, leaves game

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang left Wednesday night's game against the Dallas Stars in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Deadline Day, Big Win vs. Vancouver

Don't look now, but the eighth-ranked Dallas Stars are now just three points behind both the Pacific Division leading Phoenix Coyotes (3rd seed in the Western Conference) and the sixth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. The Coyotes have a game in hand over the Stars, while Dallas has played one fewer game than Chicago. With 70 points in 63 games, the Stars are just one point behind...

Trade Deadline Coverage

Check in with throughout the day for NHL Trade Deadline Coverage presented by Walgreens. At 3:30 an analysis show hosted by Phil Bourque and Steve Mears will be streamed live followed by a Ray Shero press conference.
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