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Stars and Lightning continue push to playoffs

by Corey Masisak

STARS (37-28-11) at LIGHTNING (42-26-9)

TV: FS-SW+, CW44

Last 10: Dallas 5-5-0; Tampa Bay 6-2-2

Season series: The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 4-2 on March 1 at American Airlines Center. Tampa Bay has won the past three games between the teams and is 5-0-2 against Dallas since a regulation loss Dec. 20, 2003.

Big story: The Stars are trying to fend of the Phoenix Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, while the Lightning are battling the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division and home ice in a likely first-round matchup between the two clubs.

Team Scope:

Stars: It is pretty simple for Dallas: Keep the goals against down and a five-year absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be over. The Stars are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NHL, not only because of the offense they can produce but the offense they can yield.

The Stars have lost eight times since the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Counting the goal against awarded for losing a shootout March 14 to the Calgary Flames, the Stars have yielded four or more in each of those losses. Dallas has scored four-plus goals in each of its past three victories as well.

Lightning: After becoming a great story this season by succeeding without superstar Steven Stamkos, the Lightning started to slip just before he returned. Between Jan. 28 and March 10, Tampa Bay went 3-5-2, but the Lightning have roared back into postseason safety by going 8-2-2 despite a 4-1 home loss Thursday to the Calgary Flames.

"The score turns out the same and that's disappointing," coach Jon Cooper told reporters after reviewing video of the loss. "But it was one of our top three games with puck possession we've had all year."

Who's hot: Ryan Garbutt has four goals in the past five games for the Stars. … Lightning forward Ondrej Palat was named NHL Rookie of the Month in March and now has nine goals and 23 points since Feb. 6, a span of 21 games.

Injury report: The Stars are without forwards Rich Peverley (heart) and Ray Whitney (lower body). Another forward, Erik Cole (upper body), is a game-time decision after missing the past seven games. … The Lightning will be without defenseman Mike Kostka (concussion).

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