More holiday weekend hockey: Lightning at Stars game preview
WHERE: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
WHEN: 8:30 PM EST
MEDIA: WTOG CW-44 (local), 620 WDAE (radio)
Coming off their most consistent and most dominant game of the season, Friday night's 5-1 victory against the New York Rangers, the Lightning have gone to Texas to face off against the Dallas Stars tonight in a cross-conference shootout.
Like the Lightning, the Stars were in action last night... But instead of being victors, they were the victims instead; being drubbed 5-2 by the Phoenix Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona. So the good news goign into tonights game is both teams have had travel to get to tonight's game. The bad news is one team will be playing to redeem themselves and that makes them extra dangerous.
There's no word yet just who starts between the pipes for the Lightning tonight. Do you start the hot hand in Mike Smith, who played well last night? Or do you start the hotter hand in Antero Niittymaki, who happens to lead the league in save percentage (.932 )? That will be settled in the next few hours as head coach Rick Tocchet puts together his lineup.
Another question is if defenseman Mattias Ohlund will return tonight or perhaps Monday versus the Colorado Avalanche back in Tampa? Ohlund has missed the last six games with an ankle injury, and while Tocchet has said that Ohlund is close to returning, it remains to be seen how close. The Bolts don't need to push it, as they have enough able-bodied defensemen to cover for Ohlund as he heals, but it would nice to get the team's defensive leader back onto the ice.
[Note by John Fontana, 11/28/09 1:59 PM EST ] Mike Smith will start again tonight and Ohlund will remain out.
This game also marks the return to Dallas for former Stars players Smith and Jeff Halpern. On the flip side, this is the first time Dallas' center Brad Richards has hosted his former team since his trade in March 2007. The Bradmaster has been having an excellent season with the Stars and is among the league leaders in assists (23) and points (30). The offensive threat for the Stars does not end there as James Neal, Loui Ericksson and Mike Ribeiro each have broken the 20 point threshold this season.
The Stars are 17th in the league with a 19.5 power play percentage. The Bolts have leap-frogged them after last night's effort versus the Rangers , but only lead them by tenths of a percentage point. The Stars have the 23rd ranked penalty kill unit, with a 78.5 percent kill rate. Theh Bolts PK is up to 77.8% -- 25th in the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
(updated November 28, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)
Alex Tanguay - Vincent Lecavalier - Jeff Halpern
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
James Wright - Paul Szczechura - Steve Downie
Kurtis Foster - Zenon Konopka - Stephane Veilleux
Victor Hedman | Andrej Meszaros
David Hale | Matt Walker
Lukas Krajicek | Mike Lundin
Mike Smith (starter)
Tampa Bay Lightning official preview
Check out full Stars coverage at the excellent Defending Big D.