News from morning skate today was that Kari Lehtonen took part in the full workout and looked strong and confident in net, yet it will be Richard Bachman who will get the start tonight in Nashville.
"We're thinking he should be ready for sure by Chicago and maybe as soon as tomorrow," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. "He is still day-to-day. I haven't talked to him since he got off the ice. Give him another day of treatment, and we'll see how he is tomorrow."
The Dallas Stars play San Jose on Saturday and then travel to Chicago on Monday to take on the dominant Blackhawks. If the Stars have any hopes at all of keeping up in this playoff race, then a two points tonight against a flailing Nashville Predators team are absolutely imperative.
Cristopher Nilstorp will back up Bachman tonight; if Lehtonen suits up, then Nilstorp will be forced to head back to the AHL because he's only up on emergency conditions.
Per Mike Heika, Kari Lehtonen wasn't exactly confident after his skate that he'll start on Saturday night.
"It was alright," said Lehtonen. "I was hoping I would feel a lot better than I did...but it's going in the right direction. I know I couldn't play tonight, so that's where we are. Now, hopefully, tomorrow morning I'll feel better."
Lehtonen stated he'll "see how it goes" tomorrow as to whether he'll play Saturday.
Line combinations this morning remained the same as they've been the past three games, and it seems that Jordie Benn will be the healthy scratch once again. The guess is that he slots in for one of the defensemen tomorrow night at home.
As for the Predators, they've decidedly thrown in the towel. While the Dallas Stars might have used the "give up" of last week as motivation to kick off an improbable run at the postseason, the Predators shut down three of their forwards for surgeries and will now give workhorse goaltender Pekka Rinne some rest as well.
Chris Mason, who has struggled significantly this season in eight games with a .866 save percentage and 3.54 goals-against average, will be in net. So it will be the battle of struggling backups tonight in Nashville, essentially.
Nashville sits six points back of a playoff spot with nine games remaining and have lost seven of their last eight games. Despite the struggles in Nashville, these two teams have started forming a rivalry that will almost assuredly carry over to next year with the two teams will be in the same division. Each of the two games this year have featured some heated exchanges and big fights, and there's a chance the same happens again tonight.
Josh Cooper of The Tennessean spoke to Eric Nystrom about it:
"I think we have some guys that can kind of get under your skin, and they have some guys who are pretty similar like that," said Nystrom, who has had two fighting majors against Nashville said. "When the two sides clash it makes for a pretty good match up, and it's exciting. I love playing these guys, they play a hard game, they're tough to play against, and that calls for more of a grinding game, physical style of play. I think that suites both our teams."
He also had Predators coach Barry Trotz weigh in:
"It can even go back to last year when Fistric hit Webs, and it sort of started from there," said Trotz. "This year, and the way they play... they play a real in your face style, they buzz you, they rely on a good team concept."