Dallas Stars @ Nashville Predators preview: The Home Finale

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 05: Mike Ribeiro #63 of the Dallas Stars skates past Kevin Klein #8 of the Nashville Predators to score a goal on Predators goalie Pekka Rinne #35 at the Bridgestone Arena on January 5, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators wrap up the home portion of their regular season schedule tonight against the Dallas Stars, a team which has its figurative back to the wall and needs a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Preds, meanwhile, are looking to get their team operating at peak efficiency in preparation for the playoffs which begin next week. As usual, the home finale means that it's Fan Appreciation Night.

Can the Predators match the desperation which the Stars will bring to the ice? Let's find out...

Tale Of The Tape

Dallas (42-33-5) at Nashville (46-26-8)
DAL Offense vs. NSH Defense NSH Offense vs. DAL Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
DAL Offense 2.5 (9th) 28.8 (15th) 8.5 (13th) 2.5 (17th) 29.4 (15th) 917 (18th) DAL Defense
NSH Defense 2.4 (11th) 30.3 (23rd) 922 (9th) 2.4 (11th) 27.2 (24th) 8.9 (6th) NSH Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
DAL PP vs. NSH PK NSH PP vs. DAL PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
DAL 5-on-4 4.8 (27th) 40.6 (29th) 11.9 (15th) 6.1 (16th) 54.9 (27th) 888 (10th) DAL 4-on-5
NSH 4-on-5 6.3 (19th) 53.4 (24th) 883 (13th) 7.8 (1st) 45.8 (21st) 16.9 (1st) NSH 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

Dallas has had difficulty on both sides of the special teams battle, and this is where the Predators can seize the advantage. In a way, this makes for a good test of the Preds' playoff game plan, where special teams will likely be the key battleground for them.

Dallas Stars

Stars fans are down in the mouth after seeing their team drop three straight games over the last week, including both ends of a home-and-home series with San Jose, which used those games as the opportunity to leap past Dallas into 8th place.

Expectations are a funny thing. Before the season, with no owner and absolutely no budget, the Stars did their best to build a team that could at the very least compete for a playoff spot. That's the highest expectation that realistically existed and most of those that cover the NHL couldn't imagine the Stars actually getting close enough to even compete. Even some of the most loyal and fervent fans thought the Stars would struggle more than they have.

Yet here we are, two games left in the season and feeling the devastation that comes with the thought of another long summer ahead of us. Another long summer, contemplating changes and improvement and what could have been while discussing what might be. It's the natural and cyclical nature of being sports fans and while we may be overcome with depression today, we'll be right back on the horse tomorrow leading the charge of the die-hard Dallas Stars fan.

--- Brandon Worley, Defending Big D

While Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro are solid front-line veterans leading the way for Dallas, but the real rising Star is Jamie Benn, The third-year winger is establishing new career-best numbers all over the board:


Jamie Benn

#14 / Left Wing / Dallas Stars

6-2

208

Jul 18, 1989



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Jamie Benn 69 26 37 63 +16 51 2 1 7 199 13.1

Dallas has won two out of the three previous meetings with Nashville this season, and they always seem to give the Preds a tough battle. If indeed the NHL realigns at some point and puts the Stars and Preds in a division together, this could make for a great southern-hockey rivalry.


Dallas Stars Last 5 Games

San Jose Tue 04/03 L 2 - 5
@ San Jose Sat 03/31 L 0 - 3
@ Vancouver Fri 03/30 L 2 - 5
@ Edmonton Wed 03/28 W 3 - 1
@ Calgary Mon 03/26 L 4 - 5

Nashville Predators

At this point, the main emphasis for the Predators is on setting the team up to play as well as possible when the playoffs open, which means getting the lines rolling, the defense pairs set, and making sure Pekka Rinne is rested and ready for several weeks of work. The word from Barry Trotz Wednesday morning on 102.5 The Game's 1st Quarter was that the first three lines are pretty set with Paul Gaustad centering the 4th (and getting a lot of extra faceoff work), leaving the two wing spots on the fourth line up for grabs.

Tuesday, that meant an opportunity for Craig Smith and Brandon Yip to get some action, and all eyes will be on the updates coming out of the morning skate to see if that changes.

Pekka Rinne returned to practice on Wednesday after missing Tuesday's game due to illness - does that mean he'll take the start tonight, or wait until Saturday at Colorado?


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

209

Nov 03, 1982



GP MIN W L OTL GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2011 - Pekka Rinne 71 4091 42 18 8 166 2.43 2115 1949 .922 4
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