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Preview: Stars at Bruins

Boston can pick up ground in playoff chase with win against Dallas, losses by Toronto, Tampa Bay

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

STARS (31-34-11) at BRUINS (40-30-6)

7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV


Stars team scope

The Dallas Stars, 3-1-1 in their past five games, are 11-22-5 on the road this season, and rank 24th in the NHL with 87 goals away from American Airlines Center. "We haven't scored enough goals on the road," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It's probably been the biggest thing I've pointed to. Our road scoring hasn't been good enough." The Stars lost their first meeting to the Boston Bruins 6-3 at home on Feb. 26 but have won their past three games at TD Garden. Goaltender Antti Niemi will start for the first time in eight games. He was pulled from his last start after allowing five goals on 20 shots in a 7-1 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on March 14. Defenseman Julius Honka, who has four assists in 10 games for Dallas, will play after he was called up from Texas of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. "We've had a few games with him," Ruff said. "We want to play him to his strengths, he's a tremendous skater. We're probably going to put him on one of our power-play units. We just want to see him play his game."


Bruins team scope

The Boston Bruins look to extend their lead for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference and perhaps climb into third place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins lead the Lightning by three points and trail the Maple Leafs by one point; Tampa Bay and Toronto each have a game in hand. The Lightning host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday; the Maple Leafs play at the Nashville Predators. Boston has won two straight after losing four in a row and is 14-7-0 since Bruce Cassidy took over as coach on Feb. 7. "I think it's all about taking care of the puck through the neutral zone," forward Drew Stafford said. "We've eliminated the odd-man rushes and the turnovers and the sloppy play. I think when you play on the right side of the puck, we're the type of team that if we play that disciplined style of play we can do some damage." Forward Frank Vatrano is out with an upper-body injury sustained in practice Wednesday. Goaltender Tuukka Rask will start for the second straight game. Center David Krejci will play his 700th NHL game.


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn -- Cody Eakin -- Ales Hemsky

Remi Elie -- Tyler Seguin -- Brett Ritchie

Curtis McKenzie -- Adam Cracknell -- Jason Spezza

Jason Dickinson -- Radek Faksa -- Devin Shore

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis -- Stephen Johns

Julius Honka -- Jamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Greg Pateryn

Injured: Patrick Sharp (hip), Jiri Hudler (lower body), Antoine Roussel (hand), Mattias Janmark (knee)


Bruins projected lineup

Brad Marchand -- Patrice Bergeron -- David Backes

Drew Stafford -- David Krejci -- David Pastrnak

Matt Beleskey -- Ryan Spooner -- Jimmy Hayes

Dominic Moore -- Riley Nash -- Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara -- Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug -- Adam McQuaid

John-Michael Liles -- Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Ryan Spooner, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow

Injured: Tim Schaller (lower body), Frank Vatrano (upper body)


Status report

Nemeth will be scratched for the second time in three games. Pateryn will be scratched for the first time in seven games. ... Beleskey, a healthy scratch the past two games, will replace Vatrano on left wing on a line with Spooner and Hayes. "[They have to] hang on to it longer in terms of protecting it," Cassidy said. "Doesn't mean being reckless, just protect the puck, absorb a hit here or there, absorb some contact and then support it well so that you're working in sync."


Who's hot

Hemsky has four points (three goals, one assist) in his past four games. ... Spezza has five assists in his past five games. ... Marchand has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in his past eight games and 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in his past 16 games. … Pastrnak has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his past 16 games. ... Nash has five points (three goals, two assists) in a three-game point streak.

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