#68 Dallas Starsvs.#67 Tampa Bay Lightning
Written by Valdis Pans
Tampa Bay Lightning (25-24-4-3) vs. Dallas Stars (22-27-9-1)
When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, February 18, 2017
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Lines: Tampa Bay -108 / Dallas -112
The Tampa Bay Lightning (7th in Atlantic Division) are returning from their five-day break with a clash against the Dallas Stars (6th in Central), who have had a season to forget until now…
This week was probably the worst time for the Tampa Bay Lightning (25-24-7) to have their mandatory five-day break, as the Bolts finished last week with four straight point games with three victories amongst them (3-0-1). The latest one took place away at MTS Centre last Saturday, when the Lightning came away with a 4-1 victory against the hosting Winnipeg Jets. Brayden Point (7 goals, 20 points), Ondrej Palat (11 goals, 27 points) and Victor Hedman (8 goals, 44 points) notched up a goal and an assist each, with Brian Boyle (13 goals, 20 points) finding the back of the net as well. Struggling for goals lately, the Bolts have managed 12 snipes during regulation in their past four fixtures (3.00 per game).
Ben Bishop made 32 saves against the Jets and has now gone 14-12-3 for the current campaign with a 2.63 GAA. He has a 1-3-0 previous record against Dallas with a 4.13 career GAA, so Andrei Vasilevskiy (11-12-4 with a 2.76 GAA) could start in the net on Saturday, having gone 2-0-0 against the Stars in the past with a 3.50 GAA. The Lightning are returning from their break, sitting 23rd in the league with 57 points from 56 contests, trailing the playoff party in the Eastern Conference by six points. They are 16th in most goals scored per game (2.70), 14th in most goals allowed on average (2.80), 9th in power play with a 21.0% success rate and 20th in penalty kill with 80.3% proficiency.
The Dallas Stars (22-27-10) continued to distance themselves from the playoff picture, finishing a three-game road trip with the third consecutive defeat, falling 3-1 behind the always-dangerous Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday. The Stars were outscored 13-6 on the road stretch, which also saw defeats against the Nashville Predators (5-3) and the Winnipeg Jets (5-2), and have won just one contest in their past eight fixtures (1-7-0). Cody Eakin buried the only puck against the Wild, taking his season tally to 2 goals on 8 points. Tyler Seguin (56 points) and Patrick Eaves (36 points) lead Dallas in goals scored with 21 markers each for the year.
Kari Lehtonen made 23 saves in Minnesota, extending his season performance to 12-18-6 with a 2.88 GAA. He has gone 14-9-3 historically against the Tampa Bay Lightning, posting a 2.54 career GAA. The Stars are currently 3rd from the bottom of the league with 54 points from 59 games and are seven points behind the playoff contention in the Western Conference with an extra game already played. They are netting the 15th highest amount of goals per contest (2.73), allowing the 2nd highest bulk on the defensive end (3.20). Dallas ranks 18th in power play with an 18.2% return and sits at the very bottom of the league in penalty kill with a shocking 73.7% expertise.
The Stars are kicking off a five-game homestand, and it is an opportunity for them to finally gather some points on their own ice, where Dallas has gone 15-9-6 for the season. Tampa Bay has won only two of its past seven road games (2-2-3) and is coming off its bye week, which will unlikely keep the team’s momentum of four consecutive point-games intact. The Stars have looked pretty decent lately, despite some calamities, which have resulted in defeats, so expect the hosts to go out of their skin to win this one…
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Valdis got his first ever article published when he was 13, and has rarely stopped. He has worked for FHM, MTV Baltics and has done loads of freelance (from columns for Cosmopolitan magazine to helping with organization of Macy Gray’s shows in the Northern Europe). Speaks five different languages, loves pizza, American Horror Story and pipe organ music, and knows European soccer better than dates of his family members’ birthdays. Is an avid fan of ice-hockey too. He is a Latvian after all...