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Stars-Lightning Preview

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For the Dallas Stars, winning at the St. Pete Times Forum has been surprisingly easy for more than a dozen years.

Looking for their ninth consecutive victory in Tampa Bay, the Stars begin a two-game swing through Florida on Monday night against the Lightning, who are expected to have top overall draft pick Steven Stamkos rested and ready to go.

It's been nearly 13 years since Dallas has lost to the Lightning in Tampa. The Stars (19-17-7) have taken eight straight there by a combined 24-10 score after a 4-2 loss on Feb. 19, 1996.

Tampa Bay has been held to one goal in three straight and six of the eight losses, going 1-for-35 on the power play over that span.

Dallas also comes in after a big win. Mike Ribeiro had a goal and assist in regulation, and scored the lone shootout goal on Saturday to lift Dallas to a 3-2 win over Los Angeles.

Jere Lehtinen also had a goal and assist and Marty Turco stopped 20 shots in regulation and overtime before denying all three shootout attempts, as Dallas rebounded after a blowing a three-goal lead before losing to Buffalo in a shootout on Thursday.

"Instead of going the wrong way, we regrouped and played a solid 65 minutes," the Stars' Darryl Sydor said. "We had a lot of opportunities and we were able to come up with the extra point in the shootout."

The Stars close out their visit to the Sunshine State on Wednesday against the Panthers.

Later on Saturday, Tampa Bay jumped out a 3-1 lead over Florida after one period before falling apart. Mike Smith gave up three second-period goals - including Jay Bouwmeester's power-play tally with one second left - en route to a 4-3 loss.

"I think we started the game great," said Tampa Bay's Vaclav Prospal. "We built a lead and let it slip in the second. That can't happen to us. ... We gave them all the momentum."

Stamkos didn't play for the second time in five games as part of an ongoing strength-building program. In addition to conditioning work, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft is taking part in extra video sessions with the coaching staff.

The 18-year-old Stamkos has five goals and 12 assists in 43 games. He has one goal and four assists in 19 contests at home.

Prospal, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone scored on Saturday for the Lightning (14-21-10), who lead last-place Atlanta by one point in the Southeast Division.

Lecavalier, headed to Sunday's All-Star Game in Montreal, has seven goals and six assists in his last 11 games. Though he leads the Lightning with 19 goals, the Tampa Bay captain has only one in five career home games versus Dallas.

This also will be the first meeting since Tampa Bay and Dallas pulled off a major trade nearly a year ago. On Feb. 26, the Lightning got Smith and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern for center and former playoff MVP Mike Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist.

Richards tied a franchise record with five assists in his Stars debut, but has totaled only 13 goals and 34 assists in 54 games with Dallas.

Smith, who became Tampa Bay's starting goalie, is 14-26-9 with a 2.58 goals-against average and three shutouts in 49 games after the trade.

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