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Stars' strategy against Lightning offense? 'Slow these guys down'

Dallas hasn't defeated Tampa Bay in its last five meetings dating back to February 2017

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (19-12-4) vs. Lightning (17-12-3)

6 p.m., Amalie Arena

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM


TAMPA, Fla. -- The Stars continue their run against good offensive teams as they meet the second-highest scoring unit in the league in the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa is averaging 3.53 goals per game, while the Stars rank first in goals against at 2.29.

The Lightning also rank second in power-play success at 28.8 percent, while Dallas is third in penalty killing at 85.6 percent.

A big offense against the Stars defense is a storyline in a lot of games this season.

"This is a great hockey club, we all know how highly skilled they are, how creative they are, how fast," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said of the Lightning. "We're the top defensive team in the league and that's going to be the key for us, slow these guys down -- and that's a lot easier said than done."

Video: DAL@TBL: Bowness previews Stars' matchup with Bolts

The Lightning have had great offensive success against the Stars in recent years, scoring eight goals in two games last season, 11 in two seasons the year before, and nine in two games before that. In 13 career games against Dallas, Steven Stamkos has 22 points (14 goals, eight assists), while defenseman Victor Hedman has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 14 games.

The Lightning are definitely a handful.

On the other side of the coin, Tampa Bay ranks 27th in goals against at 3.22 and 23rd in save percentage at .900. This could be a game where the Stars might be able to score a few goals. Dallas is coming off a 2-1 home loss to Edmonton Monday, and Tyler Seguin broke an 11-game goal drought in that game. After three practices (including an optional morning skate Thursday), the Stars are hoping they will have learned a few lessons about putting the puck in the net.

"We don't score like we're capable of," said Bowness. "I think we have to keep hounding those points home, that when we get opportunities to drive and shoot, that we do more of that. If we start driving and shooting more and using our D more, then the chances will go up.

"We've just got to create more chances, whether the puck goes in or not."


Khudobin gets nod in net over Bishop

All eyes will be on Anton Khudobin tonight.

Ben Bishop had a lot of success as a player with Tampa Bay, but he will not get the nod tonight against his old team. Instead, the Stars have decided to play Khudobin tonight and Bishop Friday at Florida. Bishop is 1-2-1 in his career against the Lightning with a 4.71 goals against average and .829 save percentage. In his career against the Panthers, Bishop is 10-3-1 with a 2.22 and .918, so that might be the reason, but Bowness said they just decided this would be a good game for Khudobin.

Khudobin is 2-3-0 against the Lightning with a 3.06 and .883, so no Stars goalie has been good against them in recent years. We'll see.

So far this season, Khudobin is 4-4-1 on the road with a 2.56 GAA and .924 save percentage.

Video: CHI@DAL: Khudobin sprawls out to stop multiple shots


Lineup updates

The Stars are trying to build some chemistry, so they are sticking to the same lines.

The guess is healthy scratches Taylor Fedun and Justin Dowling will have a chance to play Friday at Florida.

Video: EDM@DAL: Seguin regains blocked pass, nets goal


By the numbers

In five career games against Dallas, Andrei Vasilevskiy is 5-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .938 save percentage. Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy for top goaltender in the league last season. Bishop was second.



The Lightning as a team rank 23rd in save percentage at .900. They ranked third last season at .916.



Dallas has allowed 20 goals in the first period, tied for fewest in the NHL. The Stars have allowed 24 goals in the second period, fewest in the league. Dallas has allowed 34 goals in the third period, ranking 14th in the NHL.


He said it

"I had five great years here, went to the Cup Final, to the Conference Finals three separate times. We had productive years. At the end of five years, probably time to move on and we did. I'm thrilled to be in Dallas. Very, very happy to be in Dallas. This is a position that I have today that I never envisioned when I went to Dallas and kind of just fell on me. All I want to do is make the best of it and take advantage of it and see if we can keep this team playing well. We had five great years here and it was time to move on. That's the job."

-- Bowness on returning to Tampa, where he was an associate coach alongside Jon Cooper for five seasons


Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Denis Gurianov - Jason Dickinson - Corey Perry

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Roman Polak

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: D Taylor Fedun, C Justin Dowling

Injured: D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Carter Verhaeghe - Tyler Johnson - Mitchell Stephens

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Luke Schenn

Injured: Braydon Coburn (lower body)

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Calgary Flames as they return home to American Airlines Center on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. The first 5,000 kids receive a Miro Heiskanen youth jersey presented by AT&T. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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