Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars Host Nashville Predators (7:30pm CST)
The Stars have lost all four games against Central Division opponents this year, including one to these Predators already. They look to avoid a sixth straight loss this evening.
The Dallas Stars losing streak reached five games on Tuesday night after the Los Angeles Kings limited them to a single goal for the third straight outing.
A players-only meeting followed, and a team that basked in raised expectations in the preseason reeled while the likes of the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets leave them behind in the standings.
As do these 7-3-2 Nashville Predators- The Stars' first repeat opponent of the year.
Dallas claims just a single home win to date- The equal of the Buffalo Sabres, and worst in the Western Conference. Lindy Ruff says their would-have-been-fame precedes them, and that his best players have to rise to the challenge.
"Teams are paying a lot of attention to our best players," Ruff told media Wednesday, "just like we paid attention to Kopitar and those guys. That's where our big boys can't get frustrated and make the plays that cost us the game. Let's keep it at 1-1 and wait for that break, and it might be a secondary line that gets that opportunity."
A clear reference to Tyler Seguin's line and the turnovers that led to the Stars' demise Tuesday night.
Patience is always key against Nashville, because you know they're going to be patient against you, and opportunistic when the mistake happens before clamping down on defense with a strong blue line and world-class netminding.
The Stars worked Valeri Nichushkin and Sergei Gonchar back into the lineup after extended absences for each. Gonchar played just over 12 minutes and was OK in his coach's estimation. Nichushkin was a bit more noticeable- For the good and the bad.
"I thought Val skated well," said Ruff. "Those hands weren't were we needed them. He had a couple of tough plays tonight including on the third goal. I didn't know what to expect. He's missed a lot of hockey. There were times where I thought he skated well."
Cody Eakin got a maintenance day after being described as "beaten up" Wednesday, but he should be able to return this evening. In the mean time, Lindy Ruff experimented thusly at practice:
On defense Sergei Gonchar was held out with a muscle strain, and the team will re-evaluate sometime today, which could get Kevin Connauton back in the game, possibly along side Jamie Oleksiak.
Kari Lehtonen should be in net to face off against fellow Finn and Stars-nemesis Pekka Rinne.
Nashville averaged just a hair over 2.5 goals per game over their first seven, but converted that to a 5-0-2 record thanks to having surrendered just 11 over the same span. Since then things have cooled down a little, but they're starting to find a rhythm on offense.
10 goals over three games on the much vaunted Western Canadian road-swing (Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver) saw them rolling nicely offensively until they hit a snag on Tuesday in Winnipeg where the Jets held them to a single tally in a 3-1 loss.
With the Stars looking to cure some pretty ugly power play woes, Nashville rolls into town having allowed their opponents to convert on five of their last nine extra-man chances over their last three games.
The reverse of that, of course, is that the Predators have allowed four even-strength goals in their last four games. Which is a pretty neat trick. The moral of the story for Dallas? Take advantage of those power play chances if they materialize.
Their lineup these evening should look something like this:
All eyes may gravitate toward Seth Jones, Mike Ribeiro and James Neal- But remember that it was Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad that victimized Dallas early in October.
Puck drop will be shortly after 7:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.