LIGHTNING (18-23-4) at STARS (24-19-2)
TV: SUN (HD), FS-SW
Last 10: Tampa Bay 3-6-1; Dallas 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season. The teams haven't seen each other since Oct. 18, 2010, when Tampa Bay won 5-4 at home behind two goals from Dominic Moore. The Lightning are 3-0-2 in the last five meetings.
Big Story: These teams - each sitting outside the top eight in their respective conferences - are coming off a midweek game against a conference juggernaut. One team wants to build on a win, while the other wants to bury a loss. Tampa Bay won for the first time in 2012 - a streak of seven games - by beating Boston 5-3, while Dallas lost 3-2 in a shootout the same night against Western-leading Detroit.
Lightning: The past 10 games paint an accurate picture of Tampa Bay's season thus far: A string of wins that suggest resurgence, a longer string of losses that quell any momentum and a single, surprising, skid-snapping victory. Three wins to close out December gave the Bolts hope, but seven losses to start 2012 dropped Tampa to last in the conference. Then, against all odds, they put it all together in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Bruins. After hanging with Boston through two periods, Tampa Bay broke a 3-3 tie on a third-period goal by Moore. Steven Stamkos added an empty-netter to bring his League-leading total to 31.
"I thought there have been games where we deserved better," said Moore, who broke an 11-game scoring drought with the goal and added an assist. "But at the same time, we've got to earn our breaks every night. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction. Tomorrow's a new day, so we'll see what happens."
Stars: Currently two places - and two points - removed from the Western playoffs, Dallas is still struggling to close out games against top opponents. Each of Dallas' last four opponents - Los Angeles, Colorado, St. Louis and Detroit - is in playoff position as of Thursday, and each game has been decided by one goal. However, Dallas won in just one of those, a 5-4 shootout win over Los Angeles last Thursday. Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit, in which Dallas failed to capitalize on two first-period goals, was just the most recent in a series of frustrations.
"We've just got to keep sticking with it," said captain Brenden Morrow, who broke a 12-game scoring drought when he connected in the first period against Detroit. "[It's] kind of a depleted lineup with our two big centermen out, but this is the way we're going to have to play -- just scratch and claw for 60 minutes and hope for breaks."
Who's Hot: With key attackers Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn sidelined, Morrow will have to increase his presence in the opponent's zone. His goal Tuesday was his first in 13 games, but he has 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) in nine career games against the Bolts.
Injury Report: Injuries are a big reason for Tampa's woes. Dana Tyrell (lower body) and Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper body) are both questionable, while Adam Hall (forearm), J.T. Wyman (lacerated right pinky), Victor Hedman (concussion) and Ryan Shannon (lower body) are on injured reserve. … Dallas is without its top two centers in Ribeiro, who is on IR with a slightly torn right MCL, and Benn, who will miss another week or so as he recovers from an appendectomy. The Stars activated defenseman Philip Larsen (concussion) from IR.
Stat Pack: Despite the depleted benches, expect a flurry of scoring. Both the Bolts and Stars rank in the top 15 in goals per game, with 2.76 and 2.64, respectively. Unfortunately, both concede more than they score, and Tampa's 3.47 goals-allowed average is worst in the League.
Puck Drop: "You don't want to give up points, especially in your own building. But I have to judge everything by work ethic and these last two nights, we put in the work. Did we get the result? No, but did we put in the effort? Yes, both nights, and for that, that's the positive for our group." - Stars coach Glen Gulutzan on his team's effort in spite of positive results.
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