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Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: This is what we’ve been waiting for

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It’s time to see if these Bolts have what it takes.

NHL: DEC 19 Stars at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning: ROUND 4, GAME 1

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Rogers Place

Broadcast/Streaming: NBC, SN, TVA-S, CBC

Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D

Preview:

Well, we made it. The Lightning only had 45 hours between the end of Game 6 and the start of Game 1 to rest and reset. They paid a heavy toll in their series against the New York Islanders. Multiple players were shaken up on plays, left games early, and missed games during the series. We’re about to find out if this team can flip the switch and still come out with a bang against a well-rested Stars team.

The Lightning lost both of their meetings against the Stars in the regular season in overtime. In one of those losses, only Steven Stamkos managed to get on the score sheet for the Bolts. With his status still unclear (though doubtful for tonight), it’s imperative that the Lightning find a way to kick-start their secondary scoring. Anthony Cirelli’s OT winner in Game 6 was a good beginning, but the second and third lines need to start helping out the top line and Victor Hedman offensively.

If the Islanders were a better version of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Stars are a better version of the Isles — just as solid, if not more, defensively, with better offensive catalysts. The Lightning were probably at their best defensively against the Isles in Game 6, and they’re going to need to carry that over against Dallas. A lot of the Stars’ offense is created from the back end through defenders like Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and John Klingberg, but depth players like Denis Gurianov and Joel Kiviranta can burn the Lightning as well.

The Stanley Cup Final will likely showcase another Russian goalie duel — Anton Khudobin was fantastic in the Western Conference Final against Vegas. Though he had his shaky moments, Andrei Vasilevskiy found ways to shut the door when it mattered for the Lightning, and he’s going to need to match or better Khudobin in goal.

As far as other story lines go, how will Jon Cooper fare against his former associate coach and mentor Rick Bowness? Could the Lightning get Steven Stamkos back before this series ends? How much will fatigue play a factor tonight, given that the Lightning’s last two games went to overtime and multiple players are battling injuries?

Buckle up, Bolts fans. We’re about to find out — and hopefully this series goes better for the Lightning than 2015 did.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Cedric Paquette - Patrick Maroon

Alexander Volkov, Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe, Mitchell Stephens

Injured: Steven Stamkos

Defense Pairs

Victor Hedman - Zach Bogosian

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn

Injured: Jan Rutta

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Dallas Stars

Forwards

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Mattias JanmarkJoe PavelskiDenis Gurianov

Andrew CoglianoJason DickinsonBlake Comeau

Joel KivirantaJustin DowlingCorey Perry

Defense Pairs

Esa LindellJohn Klingberg

Jamie OleksiakMiro Heiskanen

Joel HanleyAndrej Sekera

Goaltenders

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger