Thursday, January 5th, 2011, 7:00 PM CST
Opponent Blog: On the Forecheck
After surrendering five to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, the low scoring Nashville Predators could be a welcome sight for a Dallas Stars team averaging 4.00 goals against over their last eight games.
The Stars recently braved the likes of Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston and a hot St. Louis team and now face a chunk of schedule comprised entirely of Western Conference foes all competing for the same few playoff spots in Nashville, Colorado, Edmonton, Anaheim and Los Angeles. The composite record of those teams as of this writing is 88-96-21 (.480). The Stars haven't won two in a row in nearly a month and will look to use this as opportunity to put some wins together and stop their slide in the standings.
Both teams enter morning skate hoping to get a very important body back on defense.
For the Stars that's Stephane Robidas. The veteran has missed six consecutive games along with his partner Sheldon Souray. Robidas' bone bruise on a foot is nearly healed and he went through a full contact practice yesterday. Coach Glen Gulutzan said they would re-evaluate his status in the morning.
Shea Weber was concussed in Dallas on December 23rd after a collision with Mark Fistric. He has practiced in consecutive days and was cleared for contact. Barry Trotz was not forthcoming on his captain's status on Wednesday but it sounds like he is a possibility for tonight. The Stars were the opponent of choice for Claude Giroux to make his return from concussion as well last month.
This game, along with many others, has been moved to Fox's alternate channel Fox Sports Plus to accommodate the return of the Dallas Mavericks. Please be advised. We'll have full channel info on the Gameday Thread.
More on each team after the jump...
Those who witnessed practice yesterday said Robidas went through a tough workout and looked good. The nature of his injury makes skating doable for him, though he reportedly still has trouble running or even walking. It does not sound as though he is 100%, so it will be interesting to see if they put him in.
There could be a rush to get him back after the way Tuesday night went, but the Stars have shown extreme patience with injuries this year so don't be surprised if he sits, despite traveling with the team.
Philip Larsen is thought to still be a week away at the very least. The team is following league recommended protocol dealing with his concussion symptoms and he has not yet skated. Sheldon Souray is behind Robida's pace and should become available sometime on the trip to California next week.
Pekka Rinne is back on form for the Predators and the Stars hope that Kari Lehtonen rounds back into All-Star shape soon as well. He made several spectacular saves on Tuesday to give the Stars a chance against an assault by the Wings but has allowed 3, 2 and 5 goals since returning from injury. He's stopped 69 of 79 shots faced (.873).
The Stars allowed two power play goals to Nashville in their last meeting, but didn't have to kill one off against Detroit. It was the first time since February 4th, 2010 the Stars did not commit a penalty.
There's been no word on how they might construct defensive pairings if Robidas comes back in. Jordie Benn will still be with the team and could come out, though Mark Fistric and Adam Pardy would be options as well. How would this make the pairings?
The story for the Preds is all about captain Shea Weber and his absence, but it hasn't mattered a bit for them on the scoreboard. They've taken three of four since leaving Dallas on the 23rd, winning two of those in low scoring 2-1 shootout wins. Their well known defensive structure allows for injuries on their back end.
They may miss him more in the long run on the offensive side of things. Despite those (shootout) wins they managed just three goals in three games following his departure before breaking out for five goals against Calgary at home on Sunday.
"It's when he feels comfortable," Trotz told the media on Tuesday. "When he feels that he's ready to go, he'll come and let us know. Between the doctors, the trainers, Shea, they'll make that decision."
Nashville has had three days off to prepare for the Stars and Shea Weber has practiced the last two.
Like the Stars the Predators have recently had some rookies roaming their blue line lately but have received good results and low scores against, apart from a familiar trouble with the Red Wings (losing 4-1 the day after Christmas).
Nashville is 0-13 on the power play since leaving Dallas, but haven't given up a power play goal in that time either. In three of their last four games they've been extremely disciplined, surrendering just two power play attempts each. The Stars earned only one against the Red wings.
The Predators lineup as of late:
Pekka Rinne left Dallas on the 23rd in quite a slump but has since righted his ship. He's won three in a row, allowing 1, 1, and 3 goals. He's stopped 86 of the last 91 shots faced (.945) and had three days at home to prepare for this one.