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

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Game 34: Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars

Friday, December 23rd, 2011, 7:30 PM CST
American Airlines Center

Local TV, Radio: FS SW HD, KTCK 1310 The Ticket

Opponent SB Nation Blog: On the Forecheck

The Stars conclude a short three game home stand tonight against the Nashville Predators looking to get the bad taste of Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Flyers out of their mouth. Frustration on and off the ice led to a lopsided romp in favor of the visitors and the Stars now must regain their focus to enter the short holiday break on a positive note before going to St. Louis on Monday.

Special teams continue to be the story in Stars' losses. Two power play goals against and five power plays surrendered made it an uphill climb against one of the best teams in the league. Dallas had worked hard to get on the right side of the special teams differential and had earned a +11 (power plays for - power plays against) over the 10 games leading up to Wednesday, but found themselves staring at a big minus there, and some tough calls that didn't go their way.

"You're going to have games where you have to kill five, that's just the way it goes,'' said Gulutzan. "I didn't think that the way we played discipline-wise warranted the penalties to be lopsided. They were discretionary calls that didn't go our way.''

The bigger issue might be the zero shots on goal in 6:00 of the Stars' own power play time against Philadelphia.

The Predators know a little something about penalty trouble, but survived four power play goals by the Blue Jackets last night and overcame a 4-1 deficit in the first period to beat Columbus 6-5 on a Martin Erat goal with just 8.4 seconds remaining.

This is the first meeting of the year between these two clubs. Dallas is 18-5-1 at home all-time against Nashville. The big question tonight is: Can the Stars bounce back, and who will be in net to assist them in that effort?

More on each team after the jump...

The Stars:

Dallas had not made a decision on their starter at the conclusion of practice on Thursday afternoon. Richard Bachman started six games in a row, winning his first three and giving up only 1, 0 and 2 goals in that stretch. Since he's surrendered six to the Devil, three to Anaheim and four to Philadelphia, though the coaching staff has said they feel the vast majority of those goals were not his fault.

The staff has demonstrated confidence in the rookie since Raycroft last left the ice, 2/3rds into the game in San Jose. You wonder, though, if it's all a bit much for a first year NHL net-minder, and so they will deliberate and let us know at morning skate today.

Who would you start? The Predators like to keep it a low scoring game.

Meanwhile Kari Lehtonen took shots in practice yesterday and is on track for a return around the New Year, possibly next Thursday night when the Blue Jackets come to town, or against the Bruins on New Years Eve.

Stephane Robidas will miss his second straight with a foot issue, but they expect him to be ready for St. Louis on Monday. In his absence Toby Petersen might return to getting some PP time, though Philip Larsen (questionable with a charley horse) could come back and alter things from Wednesday. In that scenario Adam Pardy would presumably be out, though Mark Fistric is a candidate as well.

I tweeted this on Wednesday night but it's worth repeating here: The Stars had 31 shots on goal against the Flyers. 29 at even strength, 2 short-handed, and 0 in six minutes of power play time. The Flyers had 9 SOG in 7:06 of power play time, and outchanced (by our count that you can see here) the Stars on special teams five to nothing.

The Predators:

The Preds enter the game having won six of their last seven, including good wins over the Red Wings and the Blues. They played last night but ride into town on a wave of exhilaration after overcoming two 3-goal deficits last night in defeating the Blue Jackets 6-5 on a last second goal.

Back to backs have not been an excuse for the Predators, going 2-2 on the second night of consecutive outings so far this year.

Nashville, like Dallas, is no stranger to being shorthanded. They've been short handed 16 times in their last four games, allowing eight power play goals against in that span. That's brought their penalty kill down to 79.8% on the season, good for just 24th in the league.

The Predators have made several dramatic comebacks in the last couple of weeks, necessitated by the fact that they've allowed the games first goal rather than scoring it in seven of their last nine contests.They do, however, despite being known nationally as an offensively challenged team that can't score, have the league's 2nd best power play at 21.7%, so once again it's pretty critical to stay out of the box. They've scored a power play goal in eight of their last ten games over all. (11 of 26 = 42.3% over their last ten games).

Our friend Dirk at On the Forecheck tells us the plan coming into last night was to start Pekka Rinne in both games of the back to back. He did allow five last night, so we'll see if that changes. Remarked Rinne after the game last night: "If we would have lost this game, we would have been a pretty pissed 22 guys" [Joshua Cooper - Twitter]

The Preds lineup as of late: