DALLAS -- It has been a fairly tough week for the Dallas Stars. On Monday night, Dallas fell 1-0 to St. Louis and the next night, saw itsrecord fall to 0-6-1 in the second game of a back-to-back with a shootout loss at home to Detroit.
Add in a tough 2-1 loss to Colorado last Saturday and Dallas (24-19-2, 50 points) is currently riding a three-game winless streak. As the Stars near the All-Star break, they know they need to start getting full points and tonight's game with Tampa Bay (18-23-4, 40 points) represents an excellent chance to do so.
The Lightning head into this one fresh off a huge 5-3 win over reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston on Tuesday, but they haven't won on the road since Dec. 17, 2011 at Columbus.
Still, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan knows that any time you face a club with such talented offensive players like Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, it will be a sizeable challenge.
"We have guys that have to step up. We have to do it collectively. We have to be smart defensively collectively, and we have to win some areas of the ice to make sure that we try to minimize those guys' impact," Gulutzan said. "They're great players. Outside of having them not playing tonight, they're going to be in it, so we have to do our part collectively."
Dallas will again be without its top-two centermen in Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro. Benn has missed two straight games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Sunday, while Ribeiro has missed five straight with a knee issue.
No matter who they put on the ice, winger Eric Nystrom knows the goal is always the same -- come away from tonight's game with the full two points and head to Minnesota on a winning note in advance of tomorrow night's meeting with the Wild.
"It's huge, obviously," Nystrom said. "Everybody sees the standings and how tight it is. You've got to stick with the herd and have got to find ways to win games. We've been close. We've been playing well, but still, giving up those points is tough to swallow."
Here are the projected lineups for tonight's game:
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Trevor Smith - Brett Connolly
Eric Brewer - Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark - Matt Gilroy
Bruno Gervais - Brendan Mikkelson
Injuries: Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper body), Adam Hall (upper body), Victor Hedman (concussion), Mattias Ohlund (knee), Ryan Shannon (knee), Dana Tyrell (lower body), JT Wyman (upper body)
Notes: Tampa Bay comes off a huge 5-3 win over defending Stanley Cup champion Boston on Tuesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. That victory ended a seven-game winless streak. Now the Bolts look for their first back-to-back wins of the season and also seek to put a hasty end to a six-game winless streak away from home. The last time they won on the road was on Dec. 17, 2011 at Columbus, when they bested the Blue Jackets 3-2.
Brenden Morrow - Tom Wandell - Loui Eriksson
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Adam Burish - Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen - Jake Dowell - Tomas Vincour
Sheldon Souray - Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley
Mark Fistric - Alex Goligoski
Scratches: Philip Larsen, Adam Pardy
Injuries: Jamie Benn (appendectomy), Mike Ribeiro (knee)
Notes: Dallas will look to end a three-game winless streak, a run of tough results that has seen the Stars drop a pair of one-goal games and, most recently, fall in a shootout to Detroit. The Stars have not beaten the Lightning in regulation in Dallas since Nov. 20, 2000, when they handed the Bolts a 6-2 defeat at Reunion Arena. Gulutzan's club has a 3-3-1 mark on the first day of back-to-backs this season and will play at Minnesota on Saturday. Larsen has been activated from injured reserve but won't make his return until Saturday against the Wild.