Three lines of scoring? Tampa Bay Lightning at Dallas Stars preview
Will the new found potency of the Lightning's 3rd line take focus by opposing teams off the 1st and 2nd lines (and enable them at the same time)?
Where: American Airlines Arena, Dallas, Texas
When: 8:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Defending Big D
Cedric Paquette has 7 points in his last five games. The focus is squarely on his goal scoring - 6 goals in the past 4 games - but he's also notched an assist against Vancouver on January 29.
While the focus is on Paquette, a blind eye in the summary seems to be on his linemates in Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn. Drouin is on a 4 game point streak with 5 assists over that span. On the opposing wing, Alex Killorn is on a 3 game point streak and has 6 points in his last 5 games, notching assists on Paquette's tallies and having 2 goals of his own against Vancouver.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Jack'd Paq of a line; Paquette's being enabled by his rookie colleague in Drouin as well as working with Killorn to light the lamp.
While the attention of the NHL slowly starts to shift to the Lightning's 3rd line, you have to wonder just how long it'll be for opportunity to drop back in the lap of the TKO trio? The Lightning's second line has all of 1 point in the past 5 games played (an assist by Tyler Johnson). The last time a TKO member was credited with a goal was on January 15th as Ondrej Palat lit the lamp twice in the Bolts win over Edmonton.
This drought just can't and won't last. The same concern can be pointed to Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula on the top line for Tampa Bay but its scoring threats from depth that stretch opposing teams to defend the most. Yeah, you want Steven Stamkos to put up goals (and many at that) but if he can't do it, someone else has to... The 2nd line has been filling that void for much of the season (Johnson doesn't lead the team in points for nothing), though he's battling injuries.
And now the 3rd line is clicking, a "Jack'd Paq" if you will ("Jacked Pack" - Jonathan Alex Cedric Killorn Drouin Paquette), taking the spotlight away from the top 2 lines and relieving the production pressure...
It's only a matter of time before the score sheet is once again dominated by way of the top-6; there's just too much depth to cover for opponents. It's only a matter of time before a team sees how stretched thin Tampa Bay can make them.
Will it be tonight against the Dallas Stars?
The Stars are in last place in the Central Division of the Western Conference, which actually makes them better than too-many of the teams in the Eastern Conference; 54 points in 50 games played isn't bad whatsoever. They're 5 points out of wild card contention in the conference. It's the Western Conference though, a tight race from top to (a bit above) the bottom; Edmonton and Arizona are nowhere near contention but Los Angeles, Colorado, Vancouver, Minnesota and Dallas are all jockeying in a contest for a playoff seed.
Also working against Dallas at the moment is Minnesota rebounding in their season since the acquisition of goalie Devan Dubynk from the Coyotes. Dubynk; the Wild are 6-3-1 in their past 10 and have a 4 game win streak. Dallas is 5-4-1 and like the Lightning, they had themselves a loser-point game in their past outing (also on Tuesday, against Colorado).
They're also mirred by a complication Bolts fans saw play out last season - a workhorse goalie expected to do it all and inconsistent play but the bcckup. Kari Lehtonen starts tonight for the Stars; he is 21-11-8 in 43 starts for Dallas with a 2.98 GAA and a .906 save percentage. His backup is former Lightning goalie Anders Lindback. While there was promise before the season hat Lindy had landed in a locale that would get him back on track, he's fallen further instead of risen and performed: 9 appearances, a 2-7-0 record, a 3.73 GAA and .875 save percentage. He was also demoted to the Texas Stars for a short stint.
While things haven't been steady in the crease for Dallas, they're flying up front by way of one Mister Tyler Seguin who has 56 points (28 goals, 28 assists). He, Jamie Benn (16 goals, 30 assists) and Jason Spezza (9 goals, 28 assists) lead the team in scoring. Seguin had carried the NHL lead in goals-scored for much of the season but has been passed by Rick Nash of the New York Rangers as of late.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his 5th start of his NHL career tonight in the pipes for the Lightning. Vasya, who has replaced Evgeni Nabokov has Lightning backup, is 3-1-0 in his previous 4 games with a 1.76 GAA and .937 save percentage.
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