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Game Preview: Dallas Stars Open Four-Game Road Swing in Tampa Bay (6:30pm CDT)

We’ve seen a few different versions of the Dallas Stars over the course of their first three games in 2015-2016.

We’ve seen a team that looked calm in their own end and in control against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. You saw a team that came completely un-glued in Colorado Saturday night. You saw a dominating offensive performance including 52 shots, with a big dose of frustration in the middle.

Which is the truth? The team that allowed two goals in 60 minutes of action at home? The team that couldn’t take a punch in the mouth against a division rival?

So we watch on and wait for the sample size to increase. It’s too early to say, though we try. For Dallas, it’s a chance to build some camaraderie on the road where they were so good last season, but it’s a tough row to hoe.

The Lightning we all know are challenging. The Panthers have been very potent so far. The Flyers smacked the Blackhawks 3-0 last night, and then there are the Penguins waiting at the end of the trip looking for revenge on opening night.

A challenging trip, and the Central looks as good as promised or better. The Stars probably would like to get back to Dallas on Friday the 23rd with a pair of victories in hand.

6:30pm puck drop tonight on Fox Sports Southwest.

The Stars:

Dallas will do a bit of shuffling now with Patrick Eaves sidelined with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s second period.

“It looks like a period of time,” Lindy Ruff said of his absence. “It looks like it could be a couple weeks with him. I don’t have anything definitive, but it is going to be a little bit of time.”

So Curtis McKenzie has been re-called and Eaves has been placed on IR. He can’t seem to catch a break with these injuries.

Ruff played lines that looked something like this after Eaves went down-

Benn-Seguin-Sharp
Roussel-Spezza-Hemsky
Janmark-Eakin-Sceviour
Fiddler-Moen

Janmark saw time with Spezza and Hemsky, and others jumped down to play with Fiddler’s group. The Stars will need to be careful defensively tonight, so you’d expect to see Curtis McKenzie slot in rather than Val Nichushkin, but we shall see given the limited practice time of late and the unexpected nature of the injury.

The guess is Kari Lehtonen will start in goal as they try to get one of these guys hot, but on a four-game road swing the theory is that having both of them go will be a luxury. The evolution of how Ruff will use two goaltenders will take a while to unfold.

The Lightning:

A very busy start continues for the Lightning tonight as they play their fifth game in the season’s first eight days. They went through a three-game road swing in four nights, taking the first two against Buffalo and Boston before suffering their first loss to the Red Wings Tuesday night.

They’re 3-1-0 to start the season and their high-octane offense has picked up where it left off last season at 3.55 goals per game start, boosted by a 6-3 drubbing of the Bruins.

They were held to just 21 shots on goal in Detroit Tuesday in a tight-checking game but things promise to open up against the Stars, whose 52 shots against the Oilers was more than the Wings and Lightning combined for at just 45.

They added just one piece over the off-season to their very near-Stanley Cup winning roster in Erik Condra, and Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune writes he’s part of a group that Tyler Seguin will see all night long.

Cooper trusts any of his four lines to perform in almost any situation, especially on the road, where the home team controls most of the matchups. But at home, he intends to use Filppula’s line against the opposing team’s top lines in a hybrid role.

Tonight, when Tampa Bay returns home for the first time since opening night, Filppula can expect to see a lot of Dallas scorers Jamie Benn, the 2015 Art Ross Trophy winner, and Tyler Seguin, a former No. 2 overall pick.

“Condra is a really responsible player, good penalty killer,” Cooper said. “And Fil plays that way, too. Killer is a horse. And we’ve used those guys in that role before. That’s how we hope those guys can continue to play together, shut other teams down and contribute on the scoreboard.”

Read more here at tbo.com

That lineup that we all got familiar with in June:

Drouin-Stamkos-Callahan
Palat-Johnson-Kucherov
Killorn-Filppula-Condra
Boyle-Namestnikov-Brown

Hedman-Stralman
Carle-Garrison
Coburn-Sustr

Ben Bishop
Kevin Poulin

Cedric Paquette is listed as day-to-day with a foot injury.

From Stars PR:

THUNDERSTRUCK
The Dallas Stars travel to Amalie Arena to face the Lightning for the first of two regular-season contests in 2015-16. Last season, Dallas didn’t record a win against Tampa Bay (0-2-0) and are looking for their first win on the road against them since the 2013-14 season. Stars captain Jamie Benn has points in three-straight contests against Tampa Bay and has tallied six points (2-4=6) in five career games against the Bolts. Tyler Seguin (2-1=3) and Alex Goligoski (1-2=3) each tallied three points in two games against the Lightning in 2014-15.

JANMARKS THE SPOT
Rookie forward Mattias Janmark recorded an assist on Tuesday night against Edmonton to extend his point streak to three games (2-1=3). Janmark has recorded points in all three career NHL contests and is the first player to record at least one point in each of his first three NHL games in franchise history since the 1987-88 season when North Stars defenseman Shawn Chambers did so from Jan. 11-15 (0-4=4). Both of Janmark’s goals in the first two games of the season came in the first period on his first shot of the contest.

SPEZZ IS MORE
Stars center Jason Spezza notched the team’s first hat trick of the season on Tuesday night against Edmonton and now has four points (3-1=4) in his first three games of the 2015-16 campaign. This was Spezza’s sixth career hat trick and his first as a member of the Dallas Stars. Spezza’s last hat trick came on Oct. 15, 2013 at Phoenix as a member of the Ottawa Senators. His three-point outing (3-0=0) marked the most points he’s earned in a game since Feb. 17, 2015 at St. Louis when he tallied three assists (0-3=3).

FEELIN’ THE VERN
Stars center Vernon Fiddler recorded three points (2-1=3) in two games last season against Tampa Bay. In the most recent game at Amalie Arena on March 7, Fiddler tallied two goals (2-0=2) on five shots. The native of Edmonton, Alta. is currently riding a four-game point streak against the Lightning (4-3=7) and has recorded a goal in three of those four contests. In 12 career games against Tampa Bay, Fiddler has eight points (5-3=8).