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The Dallas Stars’ season came to an end one month ago thanks to a Game 7 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs.

Believe it or not, the NHL continued play even after such a heart-wrenching defeat, and we’ve arrived at the Stanley Cup Final where the Colorado Avalanche will look to dethrone the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

With Game 1 set to take place Wednesday night in Colorado, the question lingers around which side Stars fans should root for over the next two weeks?

While it may be easy to dismiss rooting for the franchise who denied Dallas its return to Stanley Cup glory in the NHL bubble, both rosters now hold a member for the 2020 Western Conference champion Stars.

And here they are…

Familiar faces

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates a goal against the Florida...
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) celebrates a goal against the Florida Panthers with defenseman Zach Bogosian (24) and defenseman Cal Foote (52) during the second period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Sunrise, Fla.(Reinhold Matay / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Once a villain to Dallas Stars fans during his career in Anaheim, Corey Perry became a key member of the 2019-20 club that reached the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton. He even kept the Stars’ season alive in Game 5 against Tampa Bay, finding the back of the net in double overtime, before Dallas eventually fell in six games.

Perry signed with the Montreal Canadiens the following offseason, only to return to the Stanley Cup Final to again face the Lightning. This time, Perry’s squad only lasted five games as Tampa Bay won its second straight Cup.

And in an “if you can’t beat them, join them” maneuver that resulted in a third-straight run to the Final for Perry, the ex-Star signed on with Tampa Bay last July. He appeared in all 82 regular season games for the Lighting, racking up 40 points (19 G, 21 A), and has appeared in 17 playoff games.

Former draft picks: The Stars selected forward Nicholas Paul in the fourth round of the 2013 entry draft, but traded him away a year later in the deal that brought Jason Spezza to Dallas. Paul has seven points (3 G, 4 A) in 17 games in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut.

Remi Elie, a second-round draft pick of the Stars in 2013, has been serving as a Black Ace for Tampa Bay during this playoff run. After appearing in 90 games with Dallas from 2016-18, the winger only suited up one time in the regular season for Tampa Bay and hasn’t seen the ice in the postseason.

Colorado Avalanche center Andrew Cogliano (11) is congratulated for a goal against the...
Colorado Avalanche center Andrew Cogliano (11) is congratulated for a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in Denver. (Jack Dempsey / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Also a part of Dallas’ bubble team that reached the Final, Andrew Cogliano was traded to the Colorado Avalanche from the San Jose Sharks in March. Cogliano appeared in the first 11 games of Colorado’s playoff run, but suffered an injury while blocking a shot in Game 4 of the Avalanche’s second-round series against the Edmonton Oilers. He hasn’t played since the injury, and despite undergoing surgery, Colorado has yet to rule him out of the Stanley Cup Final.

Valeri Nichushkin appeared in 223 games with the Stars over parts of four seasons (2013-16, 2018-19) before landing with Colorado in free agency in 2019. Nichushkin recorded career-highs in goals (25), assists (27) and points (52) in 62 regular season games with the Avalanche this year. He has nine points (5 G, 4 A) in 14 playoff games this postseason.

Checkered past

The Lightning may have denied the Stars the chance to lift the Cup in 2020, but it was the Avalanche who were one of Dallas’ main rivals back when the organization won its first title in 1999.

Do the names Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy ring a bell to anyone?

After Dallas outlasted Colorado in a seven-game Western Conference Final during the 1999 playoffs, the two sides ran it back a year later in the same round only to see the Stars return to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000 (a losing effort against New Jersey) after overcoming the Avalanche in seven games yet again.

Is it really so easy to forget the past?

Stanley Cup schedule

Series Location Date Time TV
Game 1 at COL Wed., June 15 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 2 at COL Sat., June 18 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 3 at TB Mon., June 20 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 4 at TB Wed., June 22 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 5* at COL Fri., June 24 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 6* at TB Sun., June 26 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+
Game 7* at COL Tue., June 28 7:00 p.m. ABC, ESPN+

* If necessary

Other facts to know

Regular season records

Tampa Bay Lightning (51-23-8, third in the Atlantic Division) vs. Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7, first in the Central Division)

FanDuel Sportsbook line: Avalanche -158, Lightning +135; over/under is 6 games

Bottom lines: The Avalanche went 2-0 against the Lightning in the regular season. In their last regular season matchup on Feb. 10, the Avalanche won 3-2.

Colorado has a 31-5-3 record on its home ice. The Avalanche have gone 14-2-5 in games decided by a single goal.

Tampa Bay has a 22-14-2 record on the road. The Lightning serve 11 penalty minutes per game to rank second in the league.

Top playoff performers: Nazem Kadri has 28 goals and 59 assists for the Avalanche, and Nathan MacKinnon has six goals and six assists over the last 10 games.

Victor Hedman has 20 goals and 66 assists for the Lightning, while Steven Stamkos has seven goals and four assists over the last 10 games.

Last 10 games

Avalanche: 8-1-1, averaging 4.4 goals, 6.8 assists, 2.7 penalties and 5.4 penalty minutes while giving up three goals per game.

Lightning: 8-2-0, averaging 2.9 goals, 4.9 assists, four penalties and 8.8 penalty minutes while giving up 1.7 goals per game.

Injuries

Avalanche: Ryan Murray: out (hand/wrist), Nazem Kadri: out (undisclosed), Samuel Girard: out for season (sternum).

Lightning: Brayden Point: out (leg).

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

Find more Stars coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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