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Stars Return from Break on the Road Against Predators

You could argue that the Montreal Canadiens game, which the Dallas Stars won going into the Christmas break, was an underperformance. The Stars ultimately took the game, 4-2, but it was a game – Montreal took it to the end, and it could easily have gone the other way.

Now the Stars take on the Nashville Predators, revisiting the start of the season where Dallas took two straight. You could argue that the home and away series win set the tone for the season to date. Now, coming into the second part of the season, Dallas has the opportunity to stamp themselves as Division favorites (both tonight and Thursday nights game in Minnesota).

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Ty Dellandrea (10) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Mason Marchment (27)
Fredrik Olofsson (42) – Luke Glendening (11) – Radek Faksa (12)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Ryan Suter (20) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

Freddy Olofsson should draw in, with Denis Gurianov still out on a leave of absense. Olofsson has been part of a high performance fourth line with the Texas Stars (as was Riley Tufte). This will be his NHL debut, but he’s actually 26 years old and has been playing professionally for several years. Fourth line with Dallas should be a role that he is ready for and comfortable with.

Nashville Predators Lineup

Filip Forsberg (9) – Thomas Novak (82) – Mikael Granlund (64)
Yakov Trenin (13) – Ryan Johansen (92) – Matt Duchene (95)
Nino Niederreiter (22) – Cody Glass (8) – Tanner Jeannot (84)
Cole Smith (36) – Juuso Parssinen (75) – Colton Sissons (10)

Ryan McDonagh (27) – Roman Josi (59)
Mattias Ekholm (14) – Alexandre Carrier (45)
Jeremy Lauzon (3) – Dante Fabbro (57)

Juuse Saros (74)
Kevin Lankinen (32)

In early December, Nashville had worked their way back into the playoff race, but the team has lost seven of their last nine since early December. Offense has been the primary issue, with only two players in double figures in goals. On the other hand, Josi is once again putting together a solid season and needs to be accounted for.

The Predators have some youth down the center. Novak has taken a few games with the top line, and Parssinen has been solid with the fourth.

Keys to the Game

Puck Drop. Christmas is over and puck drop, not 10 minutes into the first period. The Stars need to come out skating and with energy.

Depth Production. Benn, Seguin, Johnston and Marchment have all had their moments during the first 35 games. In the second half of the season, the Stars need to be able to pull consistency from their middle six to go with their high octane top line.

Goaltending. Any time you’re playing the Predators, you’re going to need to deal with Juuse Saros. Nashville can steal any game. The Stars need to keep up the pressure and not get frustrated if their first goals don’t go in against Saros.