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


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


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


“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.