Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars Preview: The Most Important Game of the Season... So Far.

Ronald Martinez

The Predators could keep their postseason dreams on life support tonight, or the Stars could pull the plug.

It was hardly two weeks ago that the Dallas Stars handed the Predators a gruesome loss in their own building. It was as frustrating a game as they've played in a while, made even worse at the 6-1 drubbing of Buffalo the night before. "Hey look, goals!" we said against the Sabres. "Oh right, they're the Sabres," we said against the Stars.

Now, with a string of impressive wins in California has kept the glimmer of playoff hopes alive, when we thought they were long dead.To be sure, the Predators are currently six points out of the final Wild Card spot with four games left to play, and two teams to jump over. The possibility is that happening is not very high. But at least a little bit of luck may be favoring the Preds, as they are playing the very teams they need to pass in the standings. It could all end tonight against Dallas, or Nashville could continue to be irritatingly unsure of whether it's a good team or a bad one.

The Stats

Nashville Predators Dallas Stars
Record 35-32-11 20th 38-29-11 15th
GF/Game 2.51 21st 2.87 8th
GA/Game 2.86 23rd 2.77 20th
5-on-5 Close SF/60 29.4 15th 32.2 5th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 26.8 4th 29.5 17th
Fenwick Close 50.70 14th 52.30 8th
5-on-5 Close Save % .909 28th .914 24th
5-on-4 GF/60 5.9 17th 5.4 24th
# of PP's/Gm 2.94 29th 3.55 4th
4-on-5 GA/60 7.0 26th 6.7 22nd
# of PK's/Gm 2.92 4th 3.23 11th

The Dallas Stars

The Stars are in a dog fight (pun intended) with the Coyotes for the last Wild Card spot. Phoenix is only one point behind them, but Dallas holds the tie breakers, and have been sputtering lately. Their 4-3-3 record in their last 10 games is not the way to beat out a team that may be a surprise to make the postseason.

Kari Lehtonen has been their workhorse down this stretch, and has looked decent through it. Trade Deadline acquisition Tim Thomas has played sparingly, and looked anywhere from great to average. That shouldn't be a surprsie though, as the crease firmly belongs to Lehtonen. Thomas will provide a veteran presence should the Stars make the playoffs, as well as an experienced backup option should Lehtonen falter if/when they get there.

As we say every time, the Stars have a lot of weapons the Predators need to be aware of, including the always dangerous Jamie Benn and Tyler Sequin. Both have cracked the 30-goal mark, but are also the only Stars to score more than 16 for the season.

The Nashville Predators

So, since none of us thought this team would be playing a meaningful game at this point in the season, what do you all think? Do you want the team to make the playoffs or were you holding your breath for a top 10 draft pick? Personally, I will never root for this team to not make it to the postseason and would always rather my team make it and lose than to not get there at all.

That being said, I do share concerns with you all that this recent success could jeopardize any changes that may or may not have been made in the offseason were the Preds to lose out. Also, should the team somehow secure the last playoff spot, they would most likely be facing a first round sweep of the Blues. If Anaheim should claim the top spot, they could make a dent, but Nashville has had no success with the Blues this season and would be nothing more than an appetizer.

Regardless of the outcome of this game, tonight could be the last opportunity this season to get excited for and enjoy a game. The Predators are eliminated from contention should they lose tonight. Bring it on.

Cap your Monday night off with some hockey at 7:30 p.m. CST tonight. Game is on FS-TN.

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