The Dallas Stars mounted another late game rally on Monday night against the Ottawa Senators at the American Airlines Center courtesy of a Tyler Seguin tally late in the third period. The goal forced overtime, but the Stars ultimately fell at the hands of Erik Karlsson, as the team recorded a point against the second-to-last team in the Eastern Conference. A point earned, a point lost, but it doesn't matter for the Stars as the team kept pace with the Minnesota Wild in the Central Division, and improved to a four-point lead in the wild-card race (80 points).
The loss wrapped up a five-game homestand in which the Stars only recorded one regulation win and one regulation loss, in addition to two overtime losses and one overtime win. Tonight’s game begins a stretch in which the Stars will play seven of the next eight games on the road. The final run of key games begins tonight in Nashville, as the Stars face-off against the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
This will be the ultimate test for the Stars in the Central Division, with Radek Faska and Esa Lindell questionable and Ben Bishop out until Friday.
The Nashville Predators are coming off their deep run to the Stanley Cup Final one year ago, and are firing on all cylinders as March rolls along. With Mike Fisher returning to the lineup from retirement, the Predators have gained a veteran voice in the room and look primed to make noise in the postseason. The Predators currently sit at the top of the Central Division and Western Conference, and trail only the Tampa Bay Lightning for top in the league with 93 points. To say that the Predators are going for the Stanley Cup this year would be a massive understatement.
The Stars have to feel good about their recent stretch in which they have picked up key points at home, and have dug deep late in games to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference. Jamie Benn recently snapped an 11-game goal drought against the St.Louis Blues on Saturday, and appears to be rounding into the form that Stars fans are accustomed to seeing. Tyler Seguin has been white-hot for the club lately, as he has scored goals in all but one game of the recent homestand to give him 36 tallies on the season. The team has also seen a return to their solid defensive play in recent games, with their penalty kill being a bright spot. Look for the Stars top players to be in late-season form against the Nashville, and for the rest of the team to follow their lead. The Stars have found their energy again, and are looking like the team that pulled off five straight wins in February.
The Stars boarded the airplane and went to Nashville with question marks for head coach Ken Hitchcock. Goaltender Ben Bishop left in the first period Monday night with a lower body injury after a collision with Dan Hamuis. Radek Faksa was out as well with a lower body injury, and will not play for the second straight night. The problems on the backend are there as well, as Esa Lindell will miss the trip to Tennessee with an illness. The concerns are also present with the players in the lineup going into tonight’s games, as unidentified players were game-time decisions on Monday night, but ended up giving it a go. If the Stars hope to walk out of Nashville with two points, they will need a complete team effort up and down the lineup.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Alexander Radulov
Antoine Roussel - Devin Shore - Tyler Pitlick
Remi Elie - Jason Dickinson - Gemel Smith
Marc Methot - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Greg Pateryn
Stephen Johns - Julius Honka
Kari Lehtonen is scheduled to start tonight, as Ben Bishop played against the Blues and started the game against the Senators.
Lehtonen played well in relief of Ben Bishop, stopping 15 of 18 shots in regulation and overtime last night against the Ottawa Senators. Lehtonen is coming into tonight’s tilt sporting a 17-11-6 record in 22 games this season, and has played well on the road. Lehtonen in his new role as the Stars’ backup goaltender has brought his GAA down from 2.85 to 2.30, and his save percentage up from .902 to .919. These numbers show a goaltender who has rounded into form, and he has been giving the Stars consistent goaltending when Bishop gets a night off.
Mike Fisher is expected to make his home debut after coming out of retirement at the trade deadline.
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Ryan Hartman
Miikka Salomaki - Nick Bonino - Calle Jarnkrok
Colton Sissons - Mike Fisher - Austin Watson
Alexei Emelin - P.K. Subban
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Anthony Bitetto - Matt Irwin
Pekka Rinne could likely get the start tonight for the Predators at home. With the start of Lehtonen and Rinne, the tilt tonight could feature two of the top Finnish goaltenders of all time on the same surface.
2017-18 Predators v. Stars results
10/12/17: Dallas at Nashville, 4-1 Predators
12/5/17: Nashville at Dallas, 5-2 Predators
12/23/17: Nashville at Dallas, 4-3 (SO) Dallas