Bishop could be key piece as Stars host Lightning

DALLAS -- In mid-November, the Dallas Stars lost 6-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

On Thursday night, the teams meet again in the rematch at American Airlines Center and Dallas (36-23-4), who shut out Calgary 2-0 at home on Tuesday, is looking for a little payback.

However, Stars assistant coach Curt Fraser knows beating the Lightning (43-17-4), who lost 2-1 in overtime at home to Buffalo on Wednesday night, is easier said than done.

"Well, every team's a little bit different, obviously. But this team coming in tomorrow is real-lightning fast," Fraser said after practice Wednesday. "They can skate and create chances off the rush. We're going to have our hands full. Tampa's got it all. They got a strong back, strong front, good in goal."

Dallas is 22-10-1 at home after getting 37 saves from Ben Bishop in the win against the Flames, Bishop's fifth shutout of the season and 24th of his career.

Fraser said Bishop will start again Wednesday against his former team, the Lightning, and Dallas defenseman Dan Hamhuis wants to see the Stars' top goaltender deliver another stellar performance between the pipes.

"Yeah, it's great to see the way he played tonight (Tuesday) because you know we're not going to play perfect hockey every night and we're going to need him to make some saves," Hamhuis said after Tuesday's victory. "And that's what he did for us. We also don't want to rely on him like we did tonight. We have to work on our game to get better and limit some of the chances. There was a lot out there that were definitely preventable."

The Stars went 8-4-0 in their 12 February games and have had good success against the Eastern Conference with a 14-5-4 record, including a 7-2-1 against the Atlantic Division.

But the Lightning, who come to town sporting a plus-56 goal differential -- the best in the NHL along with their league-best 90 points, present a huge challenge for any team.

And just like it was Tuesday, the onus might again be on Bishop to help steal a win for the Stars, who currently cling to one of the wild-card playoff spots in the West.

"That's the way our goaltending's going to have to be the rest of the year. Hopefully he can keep it up," Fraser said of Bishop.

Tampa Bay's overtime loss to the Sabres snapped a four-game winning streak.

And Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper was less than pleased about his team dropping that point.

"There was one team that looked like they're getting close to making the playoffs and preparing to play in the postseason and one team looked like they weren't, so take that from there which team was which," Cooper said postgame.

Thursday's game in Dallas is Tampa Bay's final road game before it begins an eight-game homestand Saturday against Philadelphia.

The Lightning is 22-11-2 on the road, 19-7-0 against the West and 10-2-0 against the Central Division.

And if Tampa is to complete the season sweep against Dallas, Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi knows it will take a much better effort than he and his teammates showed in the loss to the Sabres.

"Yeah, we'll take the points where we can get them, but I don't really think we deserved the two points," Girardi said postgame. "We had good spots in the game, but against a team that's not in the playoffs, we need the same effort as against Toronto (a 4-3 shootout win on Monday)."

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