Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, BSSW+
Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D
The Tampa Bay Lightning are slowly getting close to the halfway mark of the season. They’re currently second in their division, behind the Florida Panthers only, which have the same amount of points, but played two less games than the Bolts. Tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars is the last home game before the next week’s California trip.
Despite the season being almost halfway over the Lightning are still yet to play with their optimal line-up so far. As it was already confirmed, Ondrej Palat is out until California trip. Ryan McDonagh, who hasn’t played since January 6, is getting closer to his return per Derek Lalonde and could play tonight. It was a good sign when he participated in drills at yesterday's morning practice. Erik Cernak, who couldn’t finish Thursday’s game is also questionable for tonight’s game. Cernak has been dealing with nagging injuries over the past two seasons and has already missed 18 games this season.
As many of the previous Tampa Bay’s opponents, the Stars are heading to Amalie Arena after a game against the Panthers. The Panthers absolutely outclassed the Stars, defeating them 7-1 on Friday night. The Stars have been especially bad on the road this season, posting a 4-11-1 record so far. Overall the Stars are sixth in the Central Division, three points behind the last wild card spot, while playing slightly less games than their opponents, however making the playoffs out of the quiet strong and balanced Central Division seems almost unachievable this season.
Joe Pavelski is leading his team in points with 35 (15+20) of them in 34 games this season. He’s also the only Stars players to represent his team at the 2022 All-Star game, however the Stars second best scorer, Jason Robertson, still has a chance to get into the All-Star game line-up through a Last Men In vote for his first ever All-Star game appearance. Robertson has 32 (13+19) points in 28 games this season and leading his team in point-per-game rate this season. The team doesn’t get enough scoring support from their stars players like Alex Radulov and Tyler Seguin, although in Seguin’s defence, he hasn’t been himself since his injury, which sidelined him from almost entire previous season.
On top of those things the Stars are missing several players, including Alex Radulov, Denis Guryanov, Andrej Sekera and their starting goalie Braden Holtby, who are still in COVID-19 protocol. In Holtby’s absence, the Stars called up goaltender Anton Khudobin, who spent recent games in the AHL. Given that the Stars are playing tonight their second game in two days and both Jake Oettinger and Khudobin had a terrible night against Florida yesterday, it will be a tough choice for Rick Bowness to decide which goalie will lead his team on the ice at Amalie Arena this evening.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Mathieu Joseph - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Bo Katchouk - Ross Colton - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
Zach Bogosian - Cal Foote
Dallas Stars Projected Lines
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski
Tyler Seguin - Jamie Benn - Jacob Peterson
Michael Raffl - Radek Faksa - Luke Glendening
Joel Kiviranta - Rhett Gardner - Tanner Kero
Ryan Suter - Miro Heiskanen
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Joel Hanley - Jani Hakanpaa