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Stars up against big test in Lightning to close out road trip

Ken Hitchcock says tonight's game will be a measuring-stick affair of sorts for Dallas

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars close out their three-game road trip tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning in what will be sort of a homecoming for Stars goaltender Ben Bishop.

Bishop is making his first return to Tampa with an opposing team since last season's trade-deadline deal that sent him from the Lightning to the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings, of course, dealt Bishop to the Stars in the offseason.

Bishop played 227 games over five seasons with the Lightning and helped lead them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.

"It's where I learned so much about hockey, how to become a starting goalie," Bishop said. "I met my wife here, got married here. It's kind of like a second home. There's a lot of good memories here."

Video: Stars looking to end road trip with a win

Bishop will try to help the Stars (9-8-1) to get on track on the road, where they have lost three straight games and are 3-6-1 on the season. They'll face a huge challenge tonight in the Lightning who have the best record in the NHL at 14-2-2.

"They are playing the best of anybody in the league right now. They are playing the best team game, and that's why they are winning," said Stars coach Ken Hitchcock. "You want to measure your team game up against them. We want to see at the end of the night how we look."

Besides Bishop coming back in net, the Stars are expected to make only one other lineup change for tonight. Gemel Smith will draw back in at forward and will take the place of Jason Dickinson who was sent back to the Texas Stars on Wednesday.

The defense will remain the same. Marc Methot remains out with a lower-body injury and is skating back in Frisco. The Stars are hopeful he could be ready to play when the team returns home to take on the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon.


Lightning Watch

The Lightning (14-2-2) come into tonight's game riding a four-game winning streak and are off to the best start in franchise history with their 30 points through 18 games. Tampa Bay leads the NHL in wins (14), points percentage (.833), and goal differential (+25). The Lightning ranks first in goal scoring (3.89 per game) and third in goals against (2.50 per game). Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in goal for the Lightning. He is 13-1-1 with a 2.32 goals against average and .930 save percentage. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos leads the NHL in points with 31 (eight goals, 23 assists) and Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL with 16 goals and ranks second with 30 points.


Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Tampa Bay Lightning 
Where: Amalie Arena 
When: 6:30 p.m.  
TV: FOX Sports Southwest 
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM


Stars Projected Lineup

Mattias Janmark - Jamie Benn - Alexander Radulov 
Gemel Smith - Tyler Seguin - Devin Shore 
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza 
Remi Elie - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg 
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn 
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns

Ben Bishop
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Brett Ritchie 
Injured: Marc Methot (lower body)


Lightning Projected Lineup

Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov 
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde 
Chris Kunitz - Tyler Johnson - J.T. Brown 
Alex Killorn - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin 
Mikhail Sergachev - Anton Stralman 
Braydon Coburn - Dan Girardi/Andre Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy 
Peter Budaj

Scratched: Slater Koekkoek, Gabriel Dumont 
Injured: Cedric Paquette (upper body)

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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