Stars-Lightning Preview

Brad Richards is off to the best start of his career for the
unbeaten Dallas Stars as he gets ready to visit his former team for
the second time.

Richards looks to help the Stars open 5-0-0 for the first time
since 2006-07 when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday
night.

Dallas beat St. Louis 3-2 in a shootout at home Saturday,
remaining one of two unbeaten teams along with Toronto. Richards
assisted on both goals and has nine points to tie Chicago’s Marian
Hossa for the NHL lead.

The center never had more than six points in his first four
games of a season. His career began with Tampa Bay (3-1-0) in 2000
before he was dealt to Dallas on Feb. 26, 2008.

The Stars won eight straight visits to Tampa before Richards
made his return Jan. 19, 2009, and had a power-play goal and an
assist in a 4-2 loss. The Lightning outscored the Stars 3-0 in the
third period to earn their first home victory in the series since
Feb. 19, 1996.

Richards had two assists in the lone meeting between these teams
last season, a 4-3 Dallas overtime home win Nov. 28.

Richards, James Neal and Loui Eriksson make up a top line that
has produced eight goals and 12 assists. Eriksson and Neal each had
a goal and an assist Saturday.

“We’re finding each other right now, we create a lot of chances
out there,” Eriksson said.”We get two goals again and we’ve been
playing really well lately, so I hope it’s going to continue. I
think everyone is really excited to get off to a good start
here.”

Kari Lehtonen made 41 saves to improve to 4-0-0 for the first
time since winning all four starts as a rookie in 2003-04.

“He was super all night,” coach Marc Crawford said. “He made it
look easy because he moved so well. He was making believers of the
guys in front of him.”

Lehtonen has gone 9-1-1 with a 1.80 goals-against average in his
last 11 starts against Tampa Bay, those coming as a member of
Southeast Division rival Atlanta.

The Lightning failed to open with four victories for the second
time in franchise history by falling 6-0 at Florida on Saturday.
Steven Stamkos had scored in seven consecutive games, totaling nine
goals, before he and his teammates were held in check by Tomas
Vokoun in the Panthers’ home opener.

Dan Ellis was pulled in the first period after allowing three
goals on 15 shots. Mike Smith entered and gave up three goals on 23
shots.

“They had all the emotions they needed,” coach Guy Boucher said.
“For us, it was just the opposite. Our goaltenders have been great
up until now but they were like the rest of the team tonight. They
were just off.”

Smith, acquired from Dallas in the Richards trade, is 2-0-0 with
a 2.81 GAA as a starter this season. He has gone 1-0-1 with a 2.95
GAA in two starts against his former team.