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Stars Try to Breakthrough Against the Lightning in Pivotal Two-Game Series

Here we are again. Another series but the same predicament for the Dallas Stars. After a disappointing shootout loss Sunday night, Dallas finds themselves inching closer to the final playoff spot. Sitting four points behind the Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas still has four games in hand over Chicago.

The past three games held to form for the rest of this season. In those three games the Stars lost one, won one and lost one in overtime/shootout. The Stars have played 28 games and have almost an identical record in all three categories (10-10-8).

The Stars welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning back to the American Airlines Center tonight. The last time these two teams played, Dallas finally broke through against Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning goaltender had three straight shutouts against the Stars before the previous game.

It was Miro Heiskanen’s goal midway through the second period that finally broke the shutout streak. Perhaps the more important part of that game was the fact that Dallas scored twice with an extra attacker to tie the game at 3-3 before ultimately falling in overtime.

Perhaps the more concerning situation for the Stars are the injuries to their forwards. After this weekend, the Stars have listed Radek Faksa, Roope Hintz, Joel Kiviranta and Alexander Radulov all as day-to-day with lower body injuries.

Radulov and Hintz are dealing with nagging injuries, per Rick Bowness, and will be game-time decisions before every game for the remainder of the season. Faksa and Kiviranta are expected to have MRIs to determine the extent of their injuries, and without practice yesterday, we’ll have to see if there are any updates on the severity of those injuries before puck drop tonight.

So, with that being said, your guess is as good as ours with line combinations for tonight.

Jamie Benn (14) – Joe Pavelski (16) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) – Jason Dickinson (18) – Blake Comeau
Tanner Kero (64) – Radek Faksa (12) – Joel L’Esperance (38)

Esa Lindell (23) – John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) – Miro Heiskanen (4)
Joel Hanley (44) – Andrej Sekera (5)

Anton Khudobin (35)
Jake Oettinger (29)

The Tampa Bay Lightning

What else can you say about this team that hasn’t been said already? They’re good. They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions and they’re playing like it. They’ve been the clear-cut favorite in the Central Division all year long and will remain that way until someone proves they’re better.

The Lightning have played three more games than the Stars but have 20 more points (23-6-2). Currently on a four-game winning streak, Tampa has more points than any other team in the NHL.

Their goal differential is a staggering +42. The next closest is the Colorado Avalanche at +32. Offensively, the Lightning have three players with 30 points already. Compare that with the Stars, who have zero players with 30 points. Dallas only has one with more than 20 (Joe Pavelski has 28), while Tampa Bay boasts eight players with at least 20 points.

Defensively, they have the best goaltender in the NHL right now. Vasilevskiy is currently 20-3-1 in his 24 games started. He is only allowing 1.86 goals against and has a save percentage of .933. As stated earlier, Dallas did manage to get three goals against him the last time they played, but that’s a rare accomplishment.

Tampa Line Combinations

Ondrej Palat (18) – Brayden Point (21) – Anthony Cirelli (71)  
Alex Killorn (17) – Yanni Gourde (37) – Steven Stamkos (91)
Barclay Goodrow (19) – Tyler Johnson (9) – Blake Coleman (20)
Patrick Maroon (14) – Ross Colton (79) – Mathieu Joseph (7)

Victor Hedman (77) – Jan Rutta (44)
Ryan McDonagh (27) – Erik Cernak (81)
Mikhail Sergachev (98) – Cal Foote (52)

Andrei Vasilevskiy (88)
Curtis McElhinney (35)

Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. CST tonight.

Talking Points