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Game Preview: Dallas Stars Look to Bounce Back Against Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30pm CST)

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The Stars must take down the best in the East if they're to get back in the win column and stay in the playoff race.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Stars held the Colorado Avalanche to 10 shots through about 50 minutes Tuesday night, then suddenly found themselves having to explain a loss.

"You ask your team to play a certain way, they played that way and the game was right there for us," said head coach Lindy Ruff after Colorado's shocking 3-2 shootout victory. "It's a tough one. It's going to be really hard to go through the game and dig up negative stuff because there just isn't any."

Tyson Barrie tied the game with 19 seconds remaining in regulation on a shot that appeared to deflect off something and past Lehtonen- The Stars' two wins after 60 minutes (2-8 now altogether) is a league worst, tied with the Los Angeles Kings.

When you're just five points out of 7th and 8th place, as of this writing, those kinds of things really hurt. Ruff sees his team is improving, but the losses that seem to contradict both statistics and eye-ball tests alike are mounting.

"We went from a game where we gave up twenty scoring chances in Winnipeg to cutting it down in the first sixty minutes to five or six chances," he added. "That's a low for the year but we didn't get it closed."

So they go from a team with a worse points percentage than they themselves possess, to one of the best in all the land this evening in the Tampa Bay Lightning, current rulers of the Eastern Conference at 32-15-5 and 69 points.

Like the Stars, Tampa's coming off a loss after regulation of their own, though one in stark contrast to Dallas'- They out-shot the Blues (70 points, owners of the league's best goal differential) 31-18. An impressive feat to say the least- Though they managed just a single goal in the loss.

More impressive still? They held the Blues to two shots (two!) in the first period.

"I thought for 60-plus minutes we had a solid effort," Head Coach JOn Cooper said. "I know it's only one point on the road, but if we can play like that on the road we should be able to get some points."

It's a bonafide measuring-stick game tonight for sure, and the Stars have to hope the Lightning already unloaded their best punch in Missouri.

Scary as they are, however, they've dropped four of the seven games they've played on the road in the Western Conference, though Tuesday's in St. Louis was their first out west since November 11th in Chicago. Their overall record against the stronger conference is an impressive 9-3-2, including 3-1-2 against the Central.

Tampa is the league's leading offensive team at 3.17 goals per game (Dallas is second at 3.14), and the dominate at even-strength, scoring 1.31 goals at 5-on-5 for every one they allow. They do it regardless of possession metrics, seemingly, recording a .613 winning (not points) percentage when they out-shoot you, and a .632 winning percentage when you out-shoot them.

And they don't wait around- They lead the league in "ROW" (regulation/overtime wins) victories with 30 already on the year.

They're led by- Well, you know. He has 10 more goals (27) than his next nearest teammate, though C Tyler Johnson leads the team with 49 points to his 46. Also keep an eye on Nikita Kucherov (43 points) and Ondrej Palat (36).

On defense Anton Stralman almost has as many points in 52 games (23 points) as John Klingberg (24) has in just 36.

Their lineup, or something like it:

Filppula-Stamkos-Callahan
Palat-Johnson-Kucherov
Killorn-Paquette-Drouin
Morrow-Boyle-Connolly

Stralman-Hedman
Barberio-Sustr
Garrison-Witkowski

Ben Bishop

That would be Brenden Morrow - Our much beloved Brenden Morrow. He signed with Tampa in the off-season and is playing fourth line minutes for them- eight or nine per night. He's recorded two goals and four assists on the year, but a pile of PIMs at 45 in 46 games played.

According to my count this will be the former captain's second appearance back in Dallas- The first since December of last season with the Blues.

From Stars PR:

The Dallas Stars extended their power play goal-scoring streak on Tuesday night as the club went 1-for-3 with the man-advantage against Colorado. The Stars have now scored on the power play in each of the last four games since returning from the All-Star break, going 8-for-19 (42.1%) over that span. Dallas scored a season-high four power play goals on Saturday night against the Jets (4-for-8), marking the first time the Stars have scored four-or-more power play goals in a single game since Jan. 15, 2011 when the team scored four goals with the man-advantage in a 6-1 win against Atlanta. Forward Tyler Seguin currently shares eighth in the NHL with a team-high 20 points on the power play (7-13=20), while his team-leading seven power play goals are tied for 16th in the League.