PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins began addressing their banged-up lineup by acquiring forward James Neal from the Dallas Stars in exchange for offensive defenseman Alex Goligoski on Monday.
As part of the deal, struck prior to Pittsburgh’s game against the Washington Capitals, the Penguins also acquired defenseman Matt Niskanen.
Neal is in his third NHL season and ranked third on the Stars with 21 goals and fifth with 39 points in 59 games. Though playing on the Stars top line with Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson, Neal had been slumping of late as his goal in a 5-2 loss at Vancouver on Saturday ended a 10-game goal drought.
Niskanen has six assists in 45 games this season, a considerable drop off 2008-09, when he led all Stars blue-liners with 35 points (six goals, 29 assists). He was the Stars’ first-round pick in the 2005 draft, selected 28th overall.
Neal was the key acquisition for the Penguins, who are down nine regulars to injuries, including captain Sidney Crosby, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, and Evgeni Malkin, who will miss the rest of the year with a knee injury.
Overall, the Penguins are without players who have combined to score 86 of their 174 goals this season.
The trade comes as the Penguins have hit a rut, going 2-4-1 in their past seven games following a 3-2 shootout loss at Chicago on Sunday. Pittsburgh (26-19-5) sits fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Neal and Niskanen are expected to join the Penguins in time for their home game against San Jose on Wednesday.
In Goligoski, the Stars acquire a puck-moving defenseman in a bid to secure their playoff position. After holding a double-digit point lead atop the Pacific Division three weeks ago, they’ve fallen to eighth in the West after going 2-9-1 in their past 12 games.
Goligoski is regarded as an up-and-coming defenseman who has nine goals and 31 points in 60 games in his third NHL season. He had three goals and four assists during a career-best-matching seven-game point streak earlier this season.
“Alex is a legitimate top-four defenseman who will have a positive impact on our entire crop of blue-liners,” Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said.
The Stars are also plagued by injuries, down five players, including Richards (upper body), who has missed three games. Dallas has also lost seven straight road games.
They’re off until hosting New Jersey on Tuesday.