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At the Rink: Stars at Lightning

by Corey Long / NHL.com

TAMPA -- Expect plenty of action up and down the ice when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Dallas Stars at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

The Lightning and Stars were the top two scoring teams in the NHL last season and have continued to play at a similar pace through the early stages of this season.

Dallas (2-1-0) had 52 shots in a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday and coach Lindy Ruff said it was hard to have too much criticism over the way his team was able to control the action.

"I like the fact that last game our veteran players really ramped it up," Ruff said. "They sensed a team that was a little bit on their heels and we really got on our toes and took it to them. That, to me, looks like the team we can be. Play with speed, play with aggression. That was a fun game to stand behind the bench."

Ruff said he doesn't expect the Lightning to be as generous with space on the ice and the Stars will need more production from their top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp.

"I think Tampa's gap is going to be tighter," Ruff said. "We're not going to get as much ice, we won't get as much time to make plays. But still they are going to have to be our best line."

Benn said the Lightning's defense provides a challenge with their length and speed. And goalie Ben Bishop's 6-foot-7 frame doesn't leave a lot of open space in the net.

"You have to make him move because he pretty much covers the whole net when he's just standing there," Benn said. "He's got a good team in front of him too, which helps."

The Lightning (3-1-0) also have gotten off to a fast start and would like to grab points on home ice Thursday against the Stars and Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres before going on the road for four games against Central Division teams.

Defenseman Anton Stralman said the Stars' skilled forwards will provide a tough challenge, but it's important to win home games early in the season.

"They are a fast team with a lot of power up front," Stralman said. "We have to make sure we're on top of our game. These home games, we only have three out of the first 10, are important. We need to play our best and it starts [Thursday]. This is going to be a tough one."

Here are the projected lineups:

STARS

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Antoine Roussel - Jason Spezza - Ales Hemsky

Mattias Janmark - Cody Eakin - Colton Sceviour

Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Curtis McKenzie

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Valeri Nichushkin, Jamie Oleksiak

LIGHTNING

Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Erik Condra

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Matthew Carle

Braydon Coburn - Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Kevin Poulin

Injured: Andrei Vasilevskiy (blood clot)

Scratched: Andrej Sustr, Vladislav Namestnikov

Status report: Cooper said Paquette was likely to make his season debut Thursday after missing the first four games because of a foot injury. … McKenzie is expected to be in the lineup a day after being recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League.

Who's hot: Spezza had a hat trick in the Stars' 4-2 win against the Oilers on Tuesday. … Drouin has a point in three of the past four games.

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