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Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars preview: Two teams have gone in opposite directions since the Finals

The start of the longest road trip of this season.

Dallas Stars v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars: GAME 20

Time: 8:30 pm ET

Location: American Airlines Center

Broadcast/Streaming: FS-SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are returning from the road after spending last week in Tampa. This trip is going to be the longest road trip this season; the Lightning will play six games over a nine-day stretch. The first game will be tonight in Dallas, where the Lightning were already supposed to play twice, but the first two games were rescheduled due to a horrible snowstorm in Texas.

On Saturday night the Lightning defeated the Stars in a game which seemed too one-sided for opponents who met in a Stanley Cup Final not very long ago. But if you check the recent Stars results, it doesn’t look that surprising. After starting the season with four wins in a row, the Stars hit a slump that they are still in, recording just two wins over the last ten games.

The Stars’ power play, which seemed like a very dangerous weapon at the start of the season, is still looking lost. Partially it can be blamed on Alex Radulov’s absence. He missed almost a month due to a lower body injury. But other big names like Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Denis Gurianov also don’t look great. In the last game against the Lightning, the Stars had six power play opportunities, but scored zero goals and even allowed one shorthanded goal by Anthony Cirelli. Radulov already practiced yesterday, but wasn’t participating in full contact drills and is not expected to play tonight.

At 5-on-5 the Stars numbers don’t look great either: the team has negative numbers at CF% and xGF%, and the shooting percentage has also dropped dramatically to 6.7%, one of the worst results in the whole league. The goaltending hasn’t been consisted either: Khudobin played a stellar game against the Florida Panthers on last Wednesday, but posted a terrible .688 save percentage against the Lightning.

As for the Lightning, the team has won four consecutive games and are heading on the road trip in a relatively good mood. Erik Cernak’s injury didn’t turn out to be serious and Anthony Cirelli has already returned, so the Lightning will probably stick to a lineup with Mathieu Joseph centering the fourth line, while Mitchell Stephens is still recovering from his injury. Blake Coleman missed the last practice due to body maintenance and while he was out, Tyler Johnson joined Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line. Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton haven’t been reassigned to the Syracuse Crunch yet and still remain with the team. According to Joe Cooper, they could get another chance during this road trip.

Heading into tonight’s game, both teams are sitting at the opposite sides in the Central Division standings. The Stars have dropped even below the Detroit Red Wings, however they have played seven fewer games than the Red Wings.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Blake Coleman

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Tyler Johnson

Pat Maroon - Mathieu Joseph - Alex Volkov

Defense

Victor Hedman - Mikhail Sergachev

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Jan Rutta - Cal Foote

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Dallas Stars Lines

(according to the last game)

Forwards

Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Denis Gurianov

Jason Dickinson - Joel Kiviranta - Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Jason Robertson - Justin Dowling - Nick Caamano

Defense

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Mark Pysyk

Goalies

Anton Khudobin

Jake Oettinger