Game Day Preview: Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars

Tonight in Dallas, the Stars will try and exact revenge for an Opening Night shootout loss the Predators dropped on them, while Nashville will look to regain momentum after two straight defeats featuring an anemic offense.

After the jump, let's break down the matchup...

In Our Last Episode...

The Predators and Stars met for the first time this season on Saturday, October 3rd, as the Preds jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Dallas battled back to tie it, but Nashville ultimately prevailed in the shootout on a goal by Mike Santorelli, and outstanding work by Dan Ellis in goal. Recall the highlights...


Meet The Enemy

Brandon from Defending Big D provides the following scouting report on Dallas:

It's been déjà vu for Stars fans this season, with three of the four games ending in shootout losses. While Marty Turco hasn't been terrible, it's been frustrating to see his obvious unease in net and the tentativeness the defense has played with in front of him. With Alex Auld in net against the Flames there was a different feel to the team, as Auld was solid  and made several great saves early as the Stars took advantage of a tired Calgary team in a 5-2 win.

What's been most disturbing is the way the Stars' penalty kill has become their biggest weakness. They are at the bottom of the NHL currently and allowed two more power play goals against Vancouver as the unit looked worse and worse. What started off as an aggressive strategy when the team went a man down evolved into ‘let's watch them pass the puck with ease and not do anything about it'. Some speculate that Crawford is using too many of his skill players on the unit who aren't keen about throwing their bodies into the shooting lanes, and the team is really starting to miss players like Stu Barnes (retired) and Nik Hagman (in Toronto).

It's not all doom and gloom; the Stars have yet to actually lose a game and have looked pretty good for long stretches. Jamie Benn and James Neal lead a group of talented and exciting young forwards for the Stars, and Brad Richards is once again leading the team in points. After a long, spirited practice where the team got back to basics on Tuesday it will interesting to see how they respond against Nashville.

A lousy penalty kill? That might be just what the doctor would order for an ailing Predators power play...

On the injury front, Mike Modano and Steve Ott are not expected to play.

Meet The Good Guys

The line shuffling has begun, and based on the report at The Tennessean yesterday, the Nashville lines may look as follows:

Sullivan - Arnott - Hornqvist

Santorelli - Legwand Jones

Erat - Wilson Ward

Smithson Guite - Belak

Suter - Weber

Hamhuis - Klein

Bouillon Laakso

J.P. Dumont is slowly but surely recovering from the hit he took in the season opener, while Jordin Tootoo is still a ways from coming back.

I am a bit surprised to see Jones moved up alongside Legwand, but this may not be a promotion, depending on how the ice time shakes out. If it works like it did on Monday, I might have to swap those 2nd and 3rd lines around entirely.

Frankly, I think this could be an exciting move; if Wilson can anchor a 2nd offensive line and spark decent production out of Erat, that frees up Legwand to play the shutdown role, something that he should be well-suited for.

Even Strength Play

In 5-on-5 action, the Stars have outscored opponents 9-4, the 2nd best ratio in the NHL behind Buffalo, and they are winning the Shots On Goal battle by a 29-23.1 margin per 60 minutes of play. Nashville, on the other hand, has been outscored 7-5, with a dead-even 29.8 Shots per 60 minutes, For and Against (all data from Behind the Net).

In other words, baton down the hatches, boys. The Stars will be coming in waves, and the Preds need to look for opportunities to create turnovers and take them the other way.

Dallas PP vs. Nashville PK

The Stars are 4-of-19 with the man advantage, a middling but productive rate (21%). The Preds PK stands at 73.3% (20th) currently, so this part of the matchup is really up for grabs.

Nashville PP vs. Dallas PK

This will be a battle of two struggling special teams units; the Predators are a mere 1-for-13 (7.7%) on the power play so far (after that PP goal less than two minutes into the first game, they've come up dry), 29th in the NHL. On the other hand, the Stars have given up a whopping 7 goals in 16 shorthanded situations, a 56.2% PK rate that is worst in the league. They will also miss Steve Ott, who is 2nd among Dallas forwards with 2:13 of shorthanded ice time per game.

There's no way the Stars will stay at that low PK rate for very long, but one more game wouldn't hurt, right?

Goaltending

Dan Ellis gets the start for the Preds; he stopped 38 of 40 shots against Dallas in the previous matchup, along with 4 of 5 attempts in the shootout.


Dan Ellis

#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-0

188

Jun 19, 1980

GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Dan Ellis 3 165 2 0 6 2.18 75 69 .920 0

Marty Turco has an all-time 11-6-2 record against the Predators, along with a 1.99 GAA in 20 games.


Marty Turco

#35 / Goalie / Dallas Stars

5-11

185

Aug 13, 1975

GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Marty Turco 3 195 0 0 9 2.77 75 66 .880 0

Summary

There's no question that David Legwand and Martin Erat are in the spotlight for Predators fans, as the team needs them to provide consistent scoring punch if they have any chance of making the playoffs. Will a reshuffled lineup and an opponent who is struggling on the PK provide the cure for what ails the Preds? We'll find out tonight...

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