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Lightning try to cool off surging Stars

by Mike Battaglino

LIGHTNING (33-21-5) at STARS (28-21-10)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-5-0; Dallas 7-1-2

Season series: This is the first of two games. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 in their most recent meeting on Jan. 20, 2012.

Big story: Waiting for forward Steven Stamkos to come back from a broken leg may be starting to take its toll on the Lightning. After missing a targeted return that would have allowed him to play for Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Stamkos remains out until at least next week. Tampa Bay has lost five of its past seven games, including 3-2 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday in a game the Lightning led 2-0.

"We've worked hard all year to put ourselves in the position we wanted to be in all along," coach Jon Cooper said Thursday. "We wanted to be in the conversation in March and April, and you can't let games like this slip through your fingers."

Team Scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay did not score more than two goals in any of five February games, and had seven shots on goal in the final two periods Thursday.

"'It was disgracefully embarrassing, that's what that game was," Cooper said. "Two periods, really, really disappointed."

Captain Martin St. Louis, thrust into speculation with the NHL Trade Deadline upcoming Wednesday, had both goals against Nashville. They were his first since a four-goal game Jan. 18.

"'Our 5-on-5 play was horrendous," St. Louis said. "Our battle level was very low. You've got to grind it out in this League, and we didn't do that."

Stars: Dallas picked up where it left off at the Olympic break, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 Thursday to extend a 7-1-2 streak. The Stars have outscored their opponents 31-13 in those games.

"Ninety percent of the game is right where we were at. We limited the opportunities; we basically played the game we wanted to play," coach Lindy Ruff told the team website Friday. "… For the most part, we were right in sync with where we were at."

Captain Jamie Benn, who won a gold medal with Canada, had a goal and two assists against Carolina but missed some shifts in the third period because he was not feeling well. However, he took part in the brief practice Friday.

"He had a little bit of illness. We expected him to stay off, but he came to us and said he wanted to skate," Ruff said. "I think with an afternoon game tomorrow and feeling a little bit better, it was a good decision."

Who's hot: Lightning forward Ondrej Palat has a three-game point streak. … Stars forward Tyler Seguin has 12 points in his past nine games. Defenseman Brendan Dillon scored his second shorthanded goal of the season; he has six total.

Injury report: Lightning forward Valtteri Filppula (ankle) may return during this road trip. Goalie Anders Lindback (ankle) made 30 saves in a 4-0 shutout for Syracuse in the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment Friday. Stamkos is aiming to return March 6. … Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (broken leg) has been practicing.

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