If there's one thing the Dallas Stars have been consistently good at this season, it's bouncing back from adversity. They still have not lost two consecutively and after a loss Tuesday night in Columbus they find themselves with yet another opportunity to keep that streak alive.
What a loss it was, too. Everything went wrong in Columbus against a team desperate to find something positive to grasp. The defense was not disciplined. The forwards did not finish. The goaltending was not good enough no matter who was in net- And all parties took the blame upon themselves-
"Obviously we haven't defended well against weaker teams," Lindy Ruff told media. "That's on my shoulders. That's something I have to correct."
"For some reason we think we can come in against these weaker teams and outscore them, but it's not how it works in this league," said Jamie Benn. "You've got to play good team defense...that one's on me, I'll take the blame for that-not getting these guys ready."
Bouncing back meets a couple of large stumbling blocks tonight in the form of Shea Weber, James Neal and the Nashville Predators, and they'll do it with a bit of change of chemistry as Ales Hemsky goes on IR and Radek Faksa is recalled, though you might like Patrick Eaves' chances at getting back in the lineup instead.
The Predators have kept pace well in the tough West despite having lost more games than they've won at this point- And how do you do that? Overtime losses, of course. Nashville has seven of them helping to make up their 18-12-7 mark on the year.
One such loss came against the Stars' new arch-enemies in the St. Louis Blues Tuesday night. The Preds fell behind by two in the third period (like the Stars did in Columbus) and then staged a furious rally to push the game into OT before falling.
Since rocketing to a sterling 11-3-3 start to the year they've alternated wins and losses for large stretches and had a three-game losing streak thrown in there as well for a 7-9-4 mark over their last 20.
They may have a new coach and a new roster but they've experienced some pretty old Nashville problems at times this season, like getting shut out in three straight games in November or scoring only four total in a three-game stretch in mid-December.
Lately it's not been an issue for them with 18 goals in their last five games and healthy shot totals to go along with. They've plenty of games with five goals scored (Against Chicago, against Henrik Lundqvist, notably) and twice they reached seven (Winnipeg, Ottawa).
Like most, they are struggling to find some consistency. Like the Stars saw in Columbus, of course, (or Toronto), anyone can strike, and teams will bring their very, very best shot against Dallas every time.
As Dallas was eager to best their stretch of Central foes last week, Nashville finds themselves wanting to avenge a loss to the Blues. Stars fans know what's like. It's going to be a very tough one this evening.
Their lineup, or something like it-
You know who will be in net in front of that salty-as-ever top two defensive pairings that Benn and Seguin will get a snoot-full of tonight.
Laviolette has benched Cody Hodgson in consecutive tilts despite full health and has been fairly mum on the subject. Following a loss it will be interesting to see if he gets back into the lineup.
From Stars PR:
TO CATCH A PREDATOR
The Dallas Stars take on the Nashville Predators in the annual New Year's Eve matchup at American Airlines Center. Dallas plays its Central Division rival in the first of five games this season after recording a 2-2-1 record against the Predators last season, including a 1-1-0 record on home ice. The Stars hold a 17-6-2 record all time on the last day of the calendar year and have won five of their last six games (5-1-0) played on Dec. 31. Nashville has only played the Stars once on New Year's Eve and defeated Dallas 1-0 on Dec. 31, 2007. In the last game against the Predators on April 11, 2015, Stars captain Jamie Benn recorded an assist with nine seconds remaining in the third period to notch his fourth point of the contest (3-1=4) securing the Art Ross Trophy and a 4-1 victory. Benn finished the 2014-15 with 87 points (35-52=87) and became the first player in Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars history to conclude the season as the NHL's leading scorer.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Stars forward Jamie Benn recorded an assist (0-1=1) on Tuesday night against Columbus and now has points in six straight games (3-6=9). Benn ranks second in NHL with 50 points (23-27=50) and his 23 goals are the most in the League. He also shares second in the NHL with a +20 plus/minus rating. This season, the captain ranks first in the NHL with 31 points (17-14=31) on home ice and his 17 goals are the most by any player. He has tallied a point in 16 of his 19 home games during the 2015-16 campaign. The native of Victoria, B.C. is riding a three-game point streak on home ice (3-3=6) and has registered a point in 11 of his last 12 home games (12-10=22). Benn has points in two of his last three games (3-2=5) against Nashville and has recorded 17 points (7-10=17) in 23 games against them in his NHL career.