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Preds Head Deep Into the Heart of Texas

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Tonight's game in Dallas just might be the perfect game at the perfect time for the Nashville Predators; an elite opponent that's currently firing on all cylinders puts forth a challenge to a good team that's stumbled defensively recently.

Simply put, the Preds should be fighting mad about their recent performance in Buffalo, and motivated to put in a top-notch effort against perhaps the hottest team in the NHL. So far this season, Nashville has won two out of three games against Dallas, including a 5-1 victory back in October, and a 1-0 win in Dallas on New Year's Eve. Last Saturday, the Stars came in to the Sommet Center and rolled over the Preds 6-3. Yes, Dallas is flying high these days, and new acquisition Brad Richards got off to a good start with his 5-assist effort against Chicago on Thursday.

But the Stars have yet to face the combined might of Jan Hlavac and Brandon Bochenski, the Predators' own trading deadline pickups. Those tough Texas hombres will be shaking in their boots when good ole #17 and #24 hit the ice, that's for sure.

Actually, I expect Barry Trotz to push his team to lock things down defensively, if only to see whether they are up to the task. The first interesting thing to watch for will be the lineup; will Kevin Klein and Ville Koistinen get action in favor of some of the regular defensemen who've been torched lately? Something needs to be done to shake things up, and benching poor performers is the way to start. My nominee to sit in the press box right now is Greg Zanon, a fine stay-at-home defenseman, but in the last few weeks it seems like he goes down to the ice to block shots and passes far too quickly, and opposing forwards have been taking advantage of that.

Game time is 7:00 Central, and this is the last game on local TV for quite a while; the next four games of this road trip aren't going to be carried by Fox Sports South (tsk, tsk, tsk...). Since I've got NHL Center Ice on DirecTV, I'll try and do some live blogging of those games to help fill the gap in coverage.

P.S.: Congratulations to Pope John Paul II High School on winning the Nashville Cup tournament last night at Southern Ice Arena. As Paul McCann often notes over at his Hockeybuzz column, high school hockey is vibrant and growing in the Nashville area, and is only just starting to get noticed by the local sports media.