Gameday Preview: Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars (7:30pm CST)

Ronald Martinez

After a loss in Phoenix the Dallas Stars will try to get back in the win column against the Nashville Predators, but must likely do so without Jamie Benn and Brenden Morrow in the lineup.

When Jamie Benn finally re-entered the fold on January 28th Derek Roy was out with a groin injury. When Roy returned February 4th Ray Whitney was out with his foot problem. Whitney could potentially return this evening and... Jamie Benn is likely out with a wrist injury.

The Dallas Stars just cannot seem to get their top-six as envisioned by Joe Nieuwendyk (Ryder or Cole) together, but must soldier on this evening as the Nashville Predators visit with a critical two points on the line between teams tied at 26.

"The wrist was a whole separate play, it had nothing to do with the hit," Benn told media Monday afternoon of his injury. "The wrist is a little sore today. I took the day off, got a little treatment done. I'll skate tomorrow and see how it feels."

Nashville enters on a bit of a high, collecting three out of a possible four points in a back-to-back set on the weekend after blasting Edmonton 6-0 and hanging with the Wild for a 2-1 shootout loss. They're tied with the Stars at 26 points by virtue of 6 overtime/shootout losses.

Dallas has won three and lost three against the Predators at home in the last three seasons, but enjoys a 19-6-1 home record against them all-time.

From Stars PR: "The Stars come into Tuesday's contest boasting a 2.08 goals-against average in 53 all-time meetings with the Nashville Predators, Dallas' best mark against any club in the league."

The puck drops tonight at American Airlines Center shortly after 7:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS.

The Stars:

Ray Whitney's anticipated return to the Stars lineup could come tonight after the winger went through another full practice with the team Monday morning.

"He felt pretty good today at practice," said Gulutzan, "so it will be up to Whits and the doctor if it is the right thing to do to put him in tomorrow."

With Brenden Morrow unable to get through a practice yesterday and Benn likely out the Stars could use the infusion of top-six talent. Whitney was +2 with six points in eight games before going on injured reserve.

Line combinations at Monday's practice sans Benn were as follows...

Smith-Eakin-Jagr
Whitney-Roy-Cole
Fraser-Roussel-Eriksson
Nystrom-Fiddler-Garbutt

Defensive pairings have been these...

Robidas-Dillon
Daley-Benn
Goligoski-Oleksiak

Philip Larsen is ready and has been for the last two games, so we'll expect him to return at some point during this home stand, though not necessarily tonight.

Matt Fraser practiced with Roussel and Eriksson Monday but was sent down following practice, and Tomas Vincour has been sent back up from the Texas Stars, so he could play on that line potentially swapping sides with Eriksson. Morning skate will tell more.

Kari Lehtonen should start in the Dallas net for the foreseeable future as the Stars play every other night for the next five games.

The Predators:

When last these teams met Nashville was in the midst of a goal-scoring slump, having been shutout for over 130 minutes before scoring five against Cristopher Nilstorp that night.

For the most part the slump has continued. The Predators have notched just a single goal in four of their last five games, the exception being a six-goal explosion at home against the Edmonton Oilers Friday night.

Nashville has been to overtime or beyond 11 times already this season, going 2-5 in seven shootouts.

"If you want to get a win against us, just take it to shootouts," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said of their loss Saturday to Minnesota. "I can't stop the puck in shootouts. I've been terrible in the shootouts. It's embarrassing."

A more pressing issue for them is almost certainly their penalty killing. Nashville has allowed 10 power play goals against in their last 7 games, killing only 12 of their last 22 shorthanded situation.

Missing big Hal Gill on defense, among other things, is part of what ails Trotz's special teams unit. Gill was placed on injured reserve March 4th, retroactive to late February, and thus eligible to come back at any time, but his status with a lower body injury isn't well known.

Like the Stars, they will be without some top-end offensive talent tonight. The Tenessean explains...

The Predators will head off on their second-longest road trip of the season without two of their top offensive players.

Nashville placed forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Colin Wilson (upper body) on injured reserve on Monday.

Hornqvist must miss at least seven days retroactive to last Friday, when he suffered the injury, and Wilson must miss at least seven days retroactive to last Saturday, when he suffered the injury.

Coach Barry Trotz left open the possibility that one or both players could join the team later in the trip, which begins Tuesday at Dallas.

They get a body back in their stead, however, as Brandon Yip has been activated from injured reserve.

Forward lines are up in the air, but a glimpse around the internet says they could turn out something like this with Hornqvist and Wilson out...

Butler-Smith-Erat
Spaling-Fisher-Boychuk
Bourque-Legwand-Yip (Halischuk?)
Clune-Gaustad-Kostitsyn

Josi-Weber
Bartley-Klein
Hannan-Ellis

Rinne
Rinne

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