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Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars Preview: Been Too Long

Now we’ve got hockey back for real.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long, mostly hockeyless week. Fortunately that ends now.

The Dallas Stars

The Stars are 9-6-1 and just barely holding their own in the Central. A win this afternoon won’t get them into third place, but it’ll keep them from falling further. Unfortunately for them, their injured list is looking like a good chunk of their roster at this point. Star defender and second-leading scorer John Klingberg broke his hand last night and joined Alexander Radulov on the injured reserve list. They’ve also had a few other injuries, which means it’s a fairly young and unknown defense corps that will be facing the Preds tonight.

Four of those defenders are under 25, Joel Hanley is primarily an AHL player, and Roman Polak is Roman Polak. If this works out for the Stars, it’ll be a great sign for their future, especially given that they’re going to get Klingberg back. However, it seems more likely that it won’t work out as well as they hope, at least not today.

The Stars have been getting lots of production from the usual suspects—Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Jason Spezza—as well as Devin Shore, but the loss of Klingberg is going to hurt them. He’s been excellent again this season. Other than the usual suspects, they’ve struggled offensively, though they’ve had an easier time of it at home (going 6-2-0) than on the road (3-4-1).

One thing that’s on the Stars’ side: they’ve finally been getting goaltending. Ben Bishop has a .921 SV% and backup Anton Khudobin has a .926. How much of that is to Bishop and Khudobin’s credit, and how much is to new head coach Jim Montgomery’s new system making their lives easier, I’m not sure.

The Nashville Predators

The Western-Conference-leading Predators are 7-0-0 on the road, much more successful than they’ve been at home, but I’ve heard the Stars’ goal song too many times to make any confident predictions about how tonight’s game in Dallas is going to go.

Viktor Arvidsson is expected to return today, which will hopefully help Ryan Johansen and especially Filip Forsberg return to wreaking havoc on the rest of the league. It’s been a quiet few games for Forsberg; maybe getting his usual linemate back will help with that.

P.K. Subban has finally overtaken Mattias Ekholm in the defender scoring race (sentences we were definitely thinking we’d be writing in November two months ago), and Kyle Turris has been playing very well with Craig Smith and Calle Järnkrok. Ryan Hartman is having a very good year so far. Kevin Fiala, unfortunately, is still missing. I’m pretty sure he’s been out there on the ice but I couldn’t actually swear to it on the evidence of my own eyes.

Pekka Rinne has been superhuman since returning from injury, only allowing one legal goal over the last two games (though two other goals-against were overturned for offside plays on Wednesday). He has a .949 sv% on the season.

The Preds have been steadying out a little defensively, both at even strength and on the penalty kill, but the power play is still not great and the 5v5 offense isn’t everything I could wish either. Hopefully things continue to trend in the right direction.

Reasons to Watch

  • Hockey’s back too!
  • It seems pretty likely that we’ll either get to see the Stars’ young defenders play well or we’ll get to see the Preds score a lot of goals. Either one could be fun, though I know which one I’d prefer.

How to Watch

Puck drop is at 1:00 PM Central. You can watch the game on FS-TN or listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game.