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Stars Face League-Best Lightning Tonight

For the second time in three games, the Dallas Stars find themselves in a trap game. This time out, they’re the hunters, not the quarry.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars
After pulling off a shutout win against the Florida Panthers, the Dallas Stars need to avoid a tumble against the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning. They need pucks, not Jamie Benn, in the net.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 6-2-2 over their last 10 games, which for the team leading the league in points, is slightly below average. They are currently on a three-game winning streak during which they have scored 16 goals.

The Dallas Stars are experiencing a bit of an offensive resurgence as well, although the raw numbers aren’t what you would call impressive. During their 10 games in January, the Stars scored more than one goal in regulation three times. Remarkably, they came through the month at 5-5-0.

For February, the Stars have already doubled up on that, scoring two or more regulation goals in all six games, while going 4-1-1.

One of those January losses came at the hands of the Lightning, who came through Dallas on January 15 to claim a 2-0 victory. For most of that game, the Stars outplayed and outshot the Lightning, but Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 35 shots that he faced. Dallas was given seven power play opportunities, but came up with nothing.

With only 11 regulation losses, it’s hard to find any weaknesses with the Lightning. To grasp at straws, five of those losses have come against teams currently outside the playoffs. Against Central Division playoff teams, its 1-2-3, so a third of Tampa Bay’s losses have come against the upper echelons of #MDK.

One of the secrets to the Lightning’s success has been staying remarkably healthy.

Image courtesy of @NHLInjuryViz

Every player in the projected lineup has played over 30 games and only five haven’t played in at least 50. That type of consistency combined with the talent up and down the lineup will win a lot of games.

Not much has changed since the last time these two teams met.

For the Lightning, Ondrej Palat has missed the last two games with an upper body injury and Erik Cernak has a lower body injury that made him unavailable for Tampa Bay’s last game against Calgary. Both skated this morning, but only Palat is expected to draw back in.

For Dallas, expect the same lineup as on Tuesday night, with the exception of Denis Gurianov drawing back in for Valeri Nichushkin. Ben Bishop is not quite ready to go, so Anton Khudobin will get his fourth straight start in net.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Blake Comeau
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark - Radek Faksa - Denis Gurianov

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Tampa Bay Lightning Lineup

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Keys to the Game

  • Against Florida, the Stars took four penalties, but the penalty kill was able to stifle the Panthers’ potent power play. The Stars cannot afford to push their luck against the league’s best team with the man advantage.
  • Tyler Seguin has carried the offensive load since the All Star break. To be consistently competitive against the best teams in the league, the second and third lines need to kick in. This would be an ideal game for a Faksa-Janmark-Cogliano goal.
  • Trying to outscore the Lightning will not work. Dallas needs to play low event hockey.
  • Secondary scoring does not always need to come from forwards. The Dallas blue line is more dangerous than Tampa Bay’s. A properly timed pinch or a layered trailer could be the difference in a tight, low-scoring affair.

Did you know?

Plus/minus is nobody’s favorite hockey stat, but it is interesting to note that somehow, some way Steven Stamkos has been able to pull off a -2 rating this year while putting up 39 even-strength points for the best team in the league.