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Better than standard; Tampa Bay lLghtning versus Dallas Stars preview

The Lightning in general this season have no played standard hockey while Dallas' above-standard goal scorer is out with injury.

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) |970 AMWFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Defending Big D

Standard time comes to end in the wee small hours of Sunday morning. The NHL season left standard-time a while back for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Was it back in October when the season itself started? Was it November when the Bolts knew they were that damn good? Surviving through January and February by way of the aid of depth and just generally being a well built team was well past the point where the "standard" moniker fell.

40-20-6 is where the Lightning stand at the moment and their home record is anything but standard: 25-6-1. The next win sets a new franchise record. Of course, with a fantastic home record comes something a lot more standard for the Bolts - mediocrity on the road, they're 15-14-5. It sort of underlines the importance of trying to win the Atlantic Division - and guarantee home-ice advantage in the playoffs for at least the first two rounds.

J.T. Brown is banged up but participated in an optional morning skate this morning at the Amalie. I'd think he'd be a game-time decision for this one, though Vladislav Namestnikov being active in the transaction column (reassigned to Syracuse) would mean Brown is in. A game of bigger importance - on the road against the Canadiens - is looming so, so resting Brown another game wouldn't be a bad idea.

The Stars made some noise before the trade deadline by making a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to grab behemoth goalie Jhonas Enroth. Enroth, 26, hasn't exactly flourished since leaving the struggling Sabres franchise; his GAA is only seven-hundredths of a point better (3.21 as to 3.27 with the Sabres) and his save percentage is much lower (.877 as to .903 in Buffalo). Mind you, this came in only six appearances so far with the Stars, but it looks like Enroth isn't the ace-in-the-deck the Stars may have expected when they brought him in to replace Anders Lindback as backup. Lindy's numbers were worse but save-percentage wise; it's comparable (3.71 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage).

If not an ace, a wild joker could have aided Dallas as well after the loss of Tyler Seguin to injury. Dallas has gone 3-5-2 since the loss of Seguin from the lineup, and their playoff hopes have faded from slim to almost none. That doesn't mean the top line isn't functioning any more for the Stars; instead of Seguin leading the team in scoring, it's Jamie Benn (23 goals, 38 assists) with Jason Spezza enabling him (15 goals, 37assists). The club is still as to-heavy as it had been when the Lightning faced them last month at American Airlines Arena; Benn leads the team in scoring, with Seguin second and Spezza third. After that trio of 50+ point scorers, the next top contributor has 35 points (defensemen John Klingberg). It's not like Tampa Bay doesn't have its own drop-off from the top (Tyler Johnson leads the team with 63 points, followed by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov with 61 a piece... Ondrej Palat is next with 49 points) but it just reads as less profound. Then again, this is coming from a biased source.

It's likely Kari Lehtonen in net for the Stars tonight; he's got a  2.98 GAA and a .905 along with 4 shutouts on the season.  He'll face rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes for the Lightning. Vasya cometh with a 5-3-1 record, a 2.21 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He pitched a shutout his last time out (against Buffalo earlier this week).

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