Stats and story lines to set you up for tonight's battle in the Lone Star State.
|Nashville Predators||Dallas Stars|
|5-on-5 Save %||.931||4th||.912||18th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.16||26th||3.62||17th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.36||6th||4.25||30th|
The Stars are barely a step ahead of the Predators in the Western Conference standings, but do enjoy a game in hand. The real area of opportunity for Nashville is in the Stars' lack of discipline, which has caused them to work the penalty kill more often than any other team in the league (although an analysis at Defending Big D suggests they are starting to show more restraint).
In their previous meeting this season, the Predators mounted a comeback to win 5-4 in overtime, in a spirited affair that featured a lot of jabbering from former Pred Vern Fiddler. Will he keep it up now that Rich Clune is uncaged?
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While the rebuild in Dallas hasn't exactly made great leaps forward, Stars fans are encouraged at least to be in contention for the playoffs, given the youth movement that is underway. Take for example this look at the Stars' defensive performance at even strength, which is basically the same as last season's:
I have a feeling that if you told Glen Gulutzan and Joe Nieuwendyk that this stat would basically be the same this year as it was last year, they would have gladly taken it knowing that so many rookies would be assimilated into the defense corps this season.
I suppose there's still time for things to go south on this front as 24 games is still a rather small sample size. But there's probably as good a chance that this number will steadily improve as the season wears on. Brenden Dillon's been a nice surprise all first half long. And Jordie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak may have started to figure a few things out at this level that they weren't figuring out earlier in the season.
--- Brandon Bigg, Defending Big D
It doesn't sound like the Preds will have to face the Stars' top forward, Jamie Benn, who is doubtful with a wrist injury. With Benn idled, there's some old guy who's actually leading Dallas in scoring:
|2012 - Jaromir Jagr||23||10||8||18||-1||16||5||0||1||62||16.1|
Here is a look at the Stars' lines from practice yesterday, without Jamie Benn, courtesy of Defending Big D:
The line combinations will be interesting to watch, I wouldn't even hazard a guess as to what they'll look like tonight. With Brandon Yip back in the mix, and the new guys Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk still getting familiar with things, I would expect a good deal of experimentation over the next few games.
What it all comes down to tonight is a whole-team effort to rally around the Predators' core principles to fight through their current adversity. Beyond that, however, they absolutely need some of their forwards to step forward and carry the load offensively.
Perhaps that guy might be Yip, who has enjoyed some success against Dallas traditionally:
|2012 - Brandon Yip||19||2||3||5||0||17||0||0||0||17||11.8|
In 11 career games vs. the Stars, Yip has four goals and five assists for nine points, the most production he's had against any NHL club.
While nobody would wish to face a 5-game roadie under the present circumstances, the Predators have no choice but to tackle it as best they can. What's your take on how they'll do?