The Dallas Stars finally collected points on a three-game home stand that through two iterations had been nothing but frustrating.
After blowing a two-goal lead in the third period to Calgary and melting down in the final frame against Vancouver Thursday the Stars finally righted the ship Saturday, defeating the San Jose Sharks by a score of 3-1, thanks in no small part to backup netminder Cristopher Nilstorp, who collected his first ever NHL win.
"I thought he was solid," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Nilstorp Saturday night. "I thought the game started right for our goalie. He had some shots early but we kept them to the perimeter. He settled right in and gave us a chance to win. I thought that was big."
Meanwhile the Predators enter this one looking for offense as they got shut-out for the second consecutive game against Detroit Saturday night, but head coach Barry Trotz says they're still generating quality looks.
The last two nights we generated lots of chances but we haven't found the back of the net," Trotz said Saturday night. "They always ask ‘are you concerned?' If we're generating that many chances I'm not concerned."
Tonight's game is a national television broadcast in the US on NBC Sports Network starting at 7:00pm CST, and the Stars will make the short jump to Columbus late tonight to take on the Blue Jackets tomorrow.
The injury carousel continues spinning for Glen Gultuzan as the Stars placed Aaron Rome (foot) and Trevor Daley on IR Sunday, while Philip Larsen is being checked out for what could be concussion symptoms, and wasn't on the team's flight to Nashville.
The worst case scenario tonight is that the Stars roll out Robidas, Dillon, Goligoski, Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak and Carl Sneep, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins as purely an AHL move - until now, when the Stars' defensive depth is being taxed to the extreme.
From Sunday's press release, in case you're unfamiliar with Mr. Sneep...
Sneep, 25, has split time between the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers and the AHL's Texas Stars this season. In 13 games with Texas, he has 3 points (1G-2A), six penalty minutes, and a plus-5 rating. He skated in his only NHL game on Dec. 17, 2011 against the Buffalo Sabres where he earned an assist and plus-1 rating in the contest.The 6-foot-3, 220-pound native of Brainerd, Minn. was Pittsburgh's second-round selection (32nd overall) in 2002. He was acquired by Dallas in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in this year's draft on Jan. 24, 2013.
Trevor Daley could play tonight and be taken off IR, as it was retroactive to last Sunday's game against Calgary. He didn't skate Sunday and will test it at morning skate in Nashville.
The forward group is enjoying some stability right now, so it's likely the lines will look the same...
Your guess on defensive pairings is as good as anyone's.
Kari Lehtonen is on the trip, but at this point it seems likely that Cristopher Nilstorp will try to match saves with Pekka Rinne and follow up his first NHL win with a second.
From Stars PR: "The Stars have allowed just 25 goals-against in the last 12 meetings with the Nashville Predators (2.08 GAA). Dallas boasts a 2.04 goals-against average against the Predators in 52 matchups all-time between the two clubs, their best mark against any NHL club."
The headline on Nashville coming into this one will be that they've been shutout in consecutive games, and that they cannot score - But they tallied 14 goals in four games before that, so don't sleep on their ability to put the puck in the net, and Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo won't be making any appearances to stop them tonight.
Nashville misses the skill of Ryan Suter, no doubt, departed for Minnesota, but the guys at On The Forecheck like what sophomore D-man Roman Josi is doing on the top-pair with Shea Weber.
There were a few concerns going into the season about Josi's ability to handle Suter's workload, but Josi seems to have hardly missed a beat on the top pairing with Weber. Josi has seen a dramatic increase in his power play minutes and has seen a bit of time on the PK as well.
The Preds used top-ten power play and penalty killing units last season to amass over 100 points in the standings. This year their power play is 26th in the early going, but the penalty kill is 7th in the league at 84.4%, and a stellar 92% at home. Indeed, the Predators have only allowed two power play goals at Bridgestone all season long, and have held opponents to just two man-advantages SIX times. So don't expect there to be much opportunity there.
Nasvhille (Pekka Rinne) is third in the NHL at just 2.05 goals against per game, so Nilstorp will have to be at his best again to keep this one managable for Dallas.
Rinne has a 1.77 GAA, a .931 save percentage and three shutouts on the year already, so any and all superlatives are appropriate as he likely represents Dallas' biggest challenge tonight on the front of a back to back.