Without their top two centers until after the All-Star break, the Dallas Stars know they’ll have to grind out victories.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would take a road win no matter how it looks.
Dallas will try to snap a three-game losing streak Friday night when the Lightning go for their first victory away from home in seven attempts.
With Mike Ribeiro already out for a few weeks following a knee injury suffered Jan. 7 against Edmonton, the Stars (24-19-2) received even more bad news Sunday when All-Star Jamie Benn had an appendectomy that could keep him sidelined for two weeks.
Dallas, which has three more games before the break, has scored twice in two contests with Ribeiro and Benn both out of the lineup. The pair has 23 goals and 50 assists.
“We’ve just got to keep sticking with it - kind of a depleted lineup with our two big centermen out, but this is the way we’re going to have to play,” said captain Brenden Morrow, who scored for the first time in 13 games in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit. “Just scratch and claw for 60 minutes and hope for breaks.”
Better results on the power play could help the Stars avoid their first three-game home losing streak since an 0-3-2 skid just over a year ago. They are 4 for 41 with the man advantage over the last 13 games.
Tampa Bay (18-23-4) has converted just twice in 24 power-play chances this month.
The Lightning were 0 for 4 in those situations Tuesday against Boston, but they snapped a seven-game slide with a 5-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champs.
“We had emotion,” said coach Guy Boucher, whose team is tied with an Eastern Conference-low 40 points. “We have a lack of confidence from losing some games and I told the players I didn’t care about the score. I wanted fight.”
The Lightning could use some of that emotion on the road, where they have been outscored 27-11 while losing six straight. It’s the club’s longest road skid since an 0-5-2 stretch Nov. 28-Dec. 17, 2009, which began with a 4-3 overtime loss in its most recent visit to Dallas.
Tampa Bay is 3-0-2 in the last five meetings overall. Martin St. Louis has no goals for the Lightning during those games, and he has not found the back of the net in his last 12 overall - although he does have 14 assists in that stretch.
Steven Stamkos, who netted his league-leading 31st goal Tuesday, has a goal in all three games he’s played against the Stars.
Lehtonen made 39 saves in the teams’ last matchup, a 5-4 Lightning home win Oct. 18, 2010.
Boucher said Thursday he had not decided whether Mathieu Garon or Dwayne Roloson will be in net. Garon has one victory in six career starts in Dallas, while Roloson is 0-2-0 with a 4.79 goals-against average in his last three starts there.
Roloson hasn’t won anywhere since Nov. 17, going 0-6-1 with a 4.37 GAA in his last 11 outings.
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier has 14 points in his last 12 games. He missed last season’s matchup against the Stars with a hand injury.