The Tampa Bay Lightning kick off their pre-season schedule tonight when they face off against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, beginning his first full season behind the bench, plans to use the occasion to get an early look at many of the training camp’s top prospects, including 2009 No. 2 overall draft pick, Victor Hedman, former first round selection from the 2005 entry draft, Matt Lashoff, on defense and youngsters Dana Tyrell and Richard Panik on the forward lines.
Joining Hedman and Lashoff on defense will be Matt Smaby, Mike Lundin, David Hale, and Kurtis Foster.
The forward lines will shape up as follows: Jeff Halpern centering Drew Miller and Blair Jones; Zenon Konopka between Martins Karsums and Todd Fedoruk; Paul Szczechura centering Brandon Bochenski and Dana Tyrell while tryout invitee Brett McLean is between Steve Downie and Richard Panik.
Goaltending duties will be split between veteran Antero Niittymaki and prospect netminder Jaroslav Janus.
After missing the playoffs last season for only the third time in 15 seasons, the Dallas Stars look to rebound this year behind new coach Marc Crawford.
Off-season additions for the Stars include goaltender Alex Auld (from Ottawa), defensemen Karlis Skrastins (from Florida) and Jeff Woywitka (from St. Louis). Veteran forwards Mike Modano, Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards all return for Dallas this season.
Following tonight’s game, the Lightning return home to prepare for their pre-season home opener against the Atlanta Thrashers, Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.