While 9 points in 6 games is a very good start to the season for the Predators, the last three games have been fairly demoralizing. For the most part, Nashville has played almost well enough to win - but come out on the short end of the stick each time. Particularly upsetting was the overtime loss to Pittsburgh after Patric Hornqvist put the team up 3-2 in the 3rd period.
No offense to Stars fans, because they have some quality players, but Dallas is not as good as their record. Widely predicted to finish out of the playoffs, the quick jump out of the gate has given fans optimism. Nashville matches up much like they do against every other NHL team - there's a vast difference in top lines, but the Predators hold the advantage pretty much everywhere else. If Nashville wants to win, their depth players will need to pitch in more than usual.
I'd expect Rinne to get the call tonight against the conference opponent, and Anders Lindback to start tomorrow night against Tampa Bay.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||3||168||1||2||6||2.14||103||97||.942||0|
Here's how the Predators lined up against Pittsburgh, with varied success. The forward lines generated consistent chances, but without Ryan Suter, the defense struggled to contain the Penguins. Matthew Lombardi and Marcel Goc remain on injured reserve with Suter.
Teemu Laakso was recalled from Milwaukee moments ago, but I'd be very surprised if he played.
Here's our SB Nation affiliate Defending Big D on Dallas' early season success:
There's just something about winning. (Something beyond just making us happy). It makes us forget that last year through six the games the Stars weren't all that much worse off than this season. They were 2-1-3. They had 7 points in 6 games. Mark Stepneski made this point the other day, here, with some good stats. The power play was better. The penalty kill was better. The shot differential was way better. Yet a couple of OT/SO wins this season make all the difference in the world, don't they? Not only for us, but more importantly for the players. Winning breeds camaraderie, belief and trust. The difference between 5-1-0 and 2-1-3 might only be three points in the standings, but it certainly feels like a much larger difference this morning.
You can check out DBD's game preview here.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports that Kari Lehtonen will get his seventh straight start in goal.
#32 / Goalie / Dallas Stars
Nov 16, 1983
|2010 - Kari Lehtonen||6||369||5||1||16||2.60||218||202||.927||0|
The top line of James Neal, Brad Richards, and Loui Eriksson has been one of, if not the best lines in hockey so far. In six games, the trio has combined for 24 points.
This may seem odd at first glance, but Jordin Tootoo and Steve Ott are two of the league's elite agitators. Capable of changing the game with a huge hit, dropping the gloves, and drawing penalties; Ott and Tootoo have more impact on a contest than you might realize. The key, of course, is doing so without taking silly penalties. While I haven't watched Ott yet this year, Tootoo has looked very solid in his tour of duty with David Legwand and Joel Ward. Keep an eye on these two tonight, and don't be surprised to see fisticuffs. Sure, Ott's in a different weight class than Toots...but when has that ever stopped Jordin?
It's only the second road game of the young season, but getting away from home might be just what Nashville needs to turn things around (despite things not being as bad as some fans would have you believe). The penalty kill needs much improvement, of course, but if Shea Weber and Francis Bouillon can contain the Brad Richards line, then the losing streak ends tonight. Predators 3, Stars 1.