Nashville Predators vs Dallas Stars Preview: New Central Division Rival Visits Bridgestone Arena

Watch out for these two... - Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's home stand didn't turn out so well, but can the Preds turn things around at Bridgestone Arena tonight?

The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars kick off their new rivalry tonight at Bridgestone Arena, lending some extra spice to a matchup between the 5th- and 7th-place teams in the Central Division.

While yes, there will be a hockey game played tonight, don't forget to weigh in on Mouthguard's Battle of the Blingees as well...

The Stats

Dallas Stars Nashville Predators
Record 14-10-5 18th 14-14-3 20th
GF/Game 2.76 10th 2.29 25th
GA/Game 2.86 23rd 2.77 21st
5-on-5 Close SF/60 33.4 3rd 29.6 13th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 30.2 20th 28.2 12th
Fenwick Close 52.30 8th 49.60 16th
5-on-5 Close Save % .916 22nd .918 21st
5-on-4 GF/60 3.6 28th 5.9 17th
# of PP's/Gm 3.52 11th 3.06 26th
4-on-5 GA/60 7.9 26th 5.6 11th
# of PK's/Gm 3.34 17th 3.29 16th

The Stars are doing a solid job in 5-on-5 play, but their penalty kill has been a weak spot - if the Preds can play a disciplined game and earn a few extra power plays, it could prove to be their path to success.

Dallas Stars

It's a new day in Dallas, and so far things are going pretty well after a wholesale transformation began over the summer with the hiring of Jim Nill as the team's general manager in late April. New faces like Sergei Gonchar, Rich Peverley and 1st-round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin are bringing a fresh dynamic to the team, but the real stars of the show are Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who have combined for a formidable Perry/Getzlaf-like punch up front for Dallas:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2013 - Tyler Seguin 26 15 12 27 +9 4 2 0 3 81

17.6



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2013 - Jamie Benn 29 7 19 26 +7 17 0 0 1 104 6.7

The Stars should prove to be the consummate division rival for Nashville in years to come - both are non-traditional hockey markets which have gotten through their initial growing pains, and there's a bit of bad blood to build on dating back several years, such as the Modano/Tootoo/Robidas incident and the Fistric hit on Shea Weber a couple seasons ago.

Coming into tonight's game, the Stars will look to rebound from a 6-2 loss to Chicago, and our comrades at Defending Big D point out that so far this season they've done well following such defeats. Here's head coach Lindy Ruff on the challenge presented by this game:

"This is a good character test," Ruff said. "Bounce back from a game that we were collectively a bad team and a bad effort. There's nothing we can find in this game that's going to make anyone happy. It's a game you don't even look at. We weren't good enough with our system and we didn't win enough one-on-one puck battles, they won the majority and they won the war at the end of the night."

Nashville Predators

Any win that breaks up a long losing streak is welcomed, but one in which the 4th-liners dominate the score sheet can brighten the mood even more. Sure, the Wagon Line may not have night's like Tuesday's more than once or twice a season, but they are fun when they do occur.

As far as tonight's lineup goes, there are really three questions on my mind: is Craig Smith well enough to play again after missing the Rangers game with "flu-like symptoms", which goalie will get the start, and what does Mattias Ekholm need to do to get back in the lineup?


Mattias Ekholm

#42 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-4

204

May 24, 1990



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2013 - Mattias Ekholm 21 0 4 4 -6 0 0 0 0 22 0.0

I'll make an apparently rare trip to the Bridge tonight to take in the action, so perhaps I'll see you there? If not, make sure you join tonight's Game Thread, and follow the broadcast on FS-TN at 7:00 p.m. Central.

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