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Stars Kick Off Five-Game Road Trip In Nashville Tonight

Didn’t they just do this? The Stars are back in Nashville tonight looking for a crucial two points.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators
Predators everywhere. Three games against Nashville in February can tighten the race for second in the Central, or can drop the Stars closer to the Wild Card battle.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A five-game winning streak is nothing to scoff at, especially when three of the five games come against division opponents. The streak started with the Dallas Stars playing some pretty solid hockey, however some timely and unexpected goal scoring in their last two wins has masked significant regression in five-on-five play.

5x5 expected goal differential for Dallas has fallen off a cliff, while Nashville continues to excel.

The Stars’ victory over the Nashville on Saturday night (February 2) was a hard-fought game. In the end, Anton Khudobin out-dueled Pekka Rinne in the net to lock down the victory.’s expected goals model had Nashville winning 2.48 to 2.12, a hockey toss-up.

Monday night’s win over the Arizona Coyotes, however, was pure Ben Bishop goaltending magic. That same model had Dallas losing 3.93 to 1.73. The Coyotes’ speed on the forecheck gave all of the defensive pairings problems and the Stars never fully adjusted, despite winning 5-3. Worse, Bishop appears to have tweaked something during the game, leading to an emergency recall of Landon Bow from the Texas Stars.

It’s hockey, so a degree of randomness certainly comes into play. The Arizona game was a trap game, and the third in four nights, so pulling out two points is not inconsequential. What fans hope for is a recognition that what happened on Monday night is not a blueprint for long-term success.

So now it’s back to Nashville. All things remaining equal, this is a preview of a Central Division first round playoff series. If I were running next year’s Winter Classic, I couldn’t have planned it any better.

Last game featured some Grade A1 chirping, including Jamie Benn and P.K. Subban. And now, to add just a drop of human blood, the Predator’s have added John Klingberg’s devilish favorite, Brian Boyle to the mix.

Throw in a friendly conversation between Anton Khudobin and Ryan Hartman, and suffice it to say, motivation should not be at issue. Kyle Turris came off of injured reserve this morning, and is expected to center the Predator’s second line.

Nice to know that the moms will be on hand to watch this one.

Nashville Predators Lineup

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Colton Sissons - Nick Bonino - Calle Jarnkrok
Ryan Hartman - Brian Boyle - Rocco Grimaldi

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Pekka Rinne

Dallas Stars Lineup

Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Dickinson - Jason Spezza
Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Keys to the Game

  • Matchups were key for the last game. The Ekholm-Subban pair dominated both the Faksa and Hintz lines five-on-five. On the other hand, the Seguin and Spezza lines had success, especially with the Josi-Ellis pair. With last change, look for the Predators to adjust how they shut down the Stars scoring lines.
There were significant differences in the success of the various forward lines and defensive pairing in Saturday’s game.
  • Bridgestone Arena is going to be electric with a playoff atmosphere. Expect the game to be physical. If the Stars get caught up in the moment, they will lose their defensive structure and take undisciplined penalties. Don’t feed the beast.
  • The Hintz line is a differentiator. Clean zone exits with speed will force the Nashville defense into a conservative posture and negates aggressive pinches at the blue line. On the other hand, they have been prone to getting hemmed in, leading to icings and extended defensive zone time.

Did you know?

The Stars’ record against the Central Division playoff teams is 6-2-1. Against the teams currently outside of the playoffs their record is 1-4-0.