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Even On The Back End Of A Back-To-Back Set, Lightning Present Big Obstacle For Stars To Overcome Tonight

The Tampa Bay Lightning are only the best team in the league right now, and the Stars are standing on shakier ground.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

While the Dallas Stars may have beat the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night to keep themselves in a playoff position, playing like they did is not going to get them far against one of the top teams in the league tonight.

“We have to seriously look at the way we’re playing our lines to get better because it’s not working. We’ve got 24 hours to get ready for one of the best teams, if not the best team in the National Hockey League coming in here and we can’t play like this,” head coach Ken Hithcock said. “The players know that.”

Hopefully, that win — albeit one in which goaltender Ben Bishop had to stand on his head to ensure a full two-point victory — gives the Stars the confidence that they can win while trying to figure out the bad habits that have crept back in over the last handful of games.

They’ll need that, good goaltending and a healthy dose of not letting facing a backup goaltender get into their heads if the Stars want to beat the Lightning. (After all, the Stars seem to fall to backup goaltenders seemingly every time they face them this season.)

One area the Stars might catch a break on tonight is in the special teams battle. While the Stars definitely won’t want to give Tampa Bay the chance to get on the man advantage all that often (they have the third-best power play in the league at 24.2%), they actually have a very pedestrian penalty kill (77.7%, 24th in the league). Dallas will need to take advantage of the opportunities in that regard tonight.

It’s a sore spot right now with the Stars. “When you’re outworked at the puck then you’re outraced up the ice and beat on the boards. We don’t have any traffic at the net on a consistent basis. All the things a good power play has, we’ve stopped doing it. We tried to play an easier game and it’s fallen into our five-on-five play too and we need to clean that up.”

We’ll see if the Stars make any changes to their power play units in an effort to get a different effort — and result — tonight.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Remi Elie - Tyler Seguin - Mattias Janmark
Antoine Roussel - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Gemel Smith - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Marc Methot - Stephen Johns

Ben Bishop will man the pipes versus his old team tonight.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lineup

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Adam Erne - Yanni Gourde - Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz - Tyler Johnson - J.T. Miller
Michael Bournival - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Louis Domingue is likely to get the call in net with Andrei Vasilevskiy starting at home versus the Buffalo Sabres. He took a 2-1 overtime loss, facing 34 shots on goal. With a comfortable lead within their division, it’s unlikely that Tampa feels the need to start Vasilevskiy two nights in a row, especially this late in the season.

We’ll have to see if Nikita Kucherov returns to the lineup. He has an upper-body injury he’s dealing with. Not that they need him to be completely lethal in the goal-scoring department. Not to mention the added motivation of wanting a win after losing to one of the worst teams in the league.