Back in January, David Poile called for an emergency press conference to announce that Mike Fisher would be returning to Nashville for the remainder of the Preds season and playoff run. Tonight, nearly two months later, Fisher makes his 2017-2018 Smashville debut, where the Predators will play host to an up-and-down Dallas Stars team.
The Dallas Stars
Dallas has a hold on the first wild card spot for now with 79 points putting them 2 points ahead of the Kings in the Wild Card and 2 points behind Minnesota in the Central Division race. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10, but they have put together two separate 5-game winning streaks since the start of 2018.
Offensively, this team is a known threat. Top-liners Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are two of the better players in the league right now, and they have combined for 118 points so far. Alex Radulov has 58 points and Mattias Janmark has 31, and the rest of the forwards are all hovering around 20 points. The team will be without Martin Hanzal due to a back injury, and it looks as though Radek Faksa, who has 27 points in 64 games, will also be out with a foot injury. Injuries definitely thin out the Stars forward depth, but it would be unwise to underestimate the firepower this team has.
Defensively, they are not as strong. With Esa Lindell being a game-time decision due to illness, they have Norris candidate John Klingberg and veteran Marc Methot on the first line, and that is nothing to overlook. Ex-Pred Dan Hamhuis is having a better season than last year in every stat other than possession metrics, but those numbers are still not fantastic. The other three, Pateryn, Johns, and Honka, are passable NHL D-men, but their stats are nothing to fret over.
As for the netminders, both of Dallas’ goaltenders have had quality seasons so far. Normal starter Ben Bishop has posted a 2.51 goals allowed average on a .916 save percentage in 50 starts, and Kari Lehtonen is allowing 2.30 goals with a .919 save percentage in 22 starts. Regardless of which one ends up in the crease tomorrow night, the Preds will likely have a tough night when it comes to scoring goals.
[Editor’s note: Bishop will be out for at least two games, so we won’t see him tonight. Also Faksa and Lindell are confirmed out.]
The best thing for Nashville is that Dallas is on the back half of a back-to-back, and they lost last night in overtime off of an Erik Karlsson breakaway.
The Nashville Predators
Does anyone actually know what is going on with this team? They are on an 8 game win streak, but that isn’t the crazy part. During the first four games of the streak, the Preds outscored their opponents 19-5. Then, just when everyone thought they team would continue their dominant stretch for the next few weeks at least, everything changed. The Preds next 4 wins required them to come from behind at least one goal, with 4 different two-goal comebacks happening as well.
The team has had the luxury of sitting players for maintenance days (Craig Smith) or minor injuries (Roman Josi) without fear of disrupting the balance too much. Not only that, but Laviolette’s Line Combo Roulette made a return, as players have been shuffled to different lines in an attempt to get them ready for playoff hockey, where they will have to adapt to mid-game line changes and everyone needs to be ready to go at any given moment.
Marchberg seems to be off to a good start after Filbruary went, well, not as planned. He has 4 points in 3 March games, which brings him up to 46 on the season. Not only is Forsberg playing well, but most of the team is too. Ryan Ellis has had the game-tying goal in the last two games, and that brings his shortened-season total to 20 points in 27 games. Nashville has 11 players who have registered 20 or more points, with Austin Watson (12) and Alexei Emelin (8) being the only players consistently getting playing time under 20 points.
The new pieces have also done well, as Hartman has 2 points in 4 games in gold, and the formerly retired Mike Fisher scored a goal in the only game he has played for the Preds.
The Stars are not the only team with a good 1-2 punch in net. Whether it’s Saros or Rinne in net for the Preds, they should be in good hands.
Reasons to Watch
- It’s a Central matchup
- The Stars are vying for a playoff spot
- Fish is returning home
Game Of Thrones Equivalent
I can’t really think of a Game of Thrones scene equivalent to the game tonight, but if it goes anything like the last four games, well, then this scene makes sense. Underdog Oberyn Martell comes into fight, holds his own, gets cocky when he thinks he’s got the Mountain killed, and gets his skull crushed in. [DISCLAIMER: MORE VIOLENT THAN LAST TIME. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED]
Sights and Sounds
TV: Fox Sports-TN. Radio: 102.5 The Game. Puck Drop: 7 p.m. CT.