The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars last met in this very arena last Saturday. Calle Järnkrok had the Preds’ first and only goal, Tyler Seguin tied it moments later, and the Stars got another two goals late in the third from Blake Comeau and Mattias Janmark to deny the Preds even an OT point. In case you, like me, missed the game, you can read Chris Brooks’s recap of it, or just pretend it never happened. Tonight, the Predators look to play a better and more successful game, while the Stars look to continue their rise up the standings.
The Nashville Predators:
David Poile made some trades yesterday, including the acquisition of actual NHL player Brian Boyle (who hopes to play tonight) from the New Jersey Devils, and the hope is that these will create a positive effect in the locker room and on the ice. Also, Kyle Turris will return tonight!
The power play scored a goal on Tuesday, courtesy of Mr. February himself, Filip Forsberg. Let’s take a moment to appreciate it again before we continue with last game’s other highlights:
The Predators played a home game against a tired, injury-depleted Arizona Coyotes team, and they won it in decisive and convincing manner. That’s something they’ve struggled with at times this season—they’ve managed to lose a few too many of those should-be-easy points for our comfort.
Seeing them put together a pretty darn complete game against a very beatable opponent was a breath of fresh air. The one real lament I had was their slow start to the third, allowing a two-goal lead to shrink to a one-goal lead as the Coyotes got some pushback going. If they can manage not to turtle when they get a lead, they’ll be in a much better spot.
Another bright side from Tuesday: Pekka Rinne turned in a good performance as well, which is something they’ve needed.
For tonight, I’d like to see the Predators build off of Tuesday’s good work: control play 5v5, score goals on the power play (and threaten if they can’t), kill penalties, get goaltending, and score goals of their own.
Speaking of goals, Forsberg is at 19. Will tonight be the night he hits 20?
The Dallas Stars:
The Stars have been getting consistently good and reliable goaltending, Monday’s game against—again—the Coyotes aside. Starter and local eleventy-foot-tall man Ben Bishop has a sv% of .924 on the season, while Anton Khudobin has a sv% of .926.
The Stars don’t play terribly exciting hockey at either end of the ice, though they have a slightly above-average power play and penalty kill, and they’ve gotten the luck and goaltending to make both work.
Not much has changed since Rachel previewed the Stars last weekend. Tyler Seguin leads the team in goals (22) and points (50), while Alexander Radulov’s 29 assists just barely edge out Seguin’s 28. Radulov’s 43 points—in 43 games played—are second-best on the Stars. Rookie defender Miro Heiskanen’s nine goals are tied for fourth on the team, while John Klingberg has been a steadying influence at both ends of the ice since his return from injury and leads Stars defenders in points with 26.
What is of interest is that the Stars have worked their way into the thick of the playoff discussion. Despite Jamie Benn’s struggles (relative to his contract, anyway; Benn’s 19 goals and 37 points would still have him among the Preds’ top scorers), a string of injuries that at one point had the Stars playing their thirteenth defender, and their GM’s weird decision to CTRL+Z the Jamie Oleksiak trade, the Stars are currently sitting in a playoff position.
They’re one of only three teams in the Central (with the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators) to have a positive goal differential. With 60 points, they’re eight back of the Preds with two games in hand, and three points ahead of the Minnesota Wild with an equal number of games played. This game matters a lot to the Stars; it needs to matter just as much to the Preds.
Reasons to Watch:
- It’s Filbruary. Do we really need another reason?
- Hopefully the men in gold will be looking to make up for their regrettable third period against the Stars last weekend.
- A few players have point streaks going.
- Brian Boyle might make his debut. I’m still iffy on him as a pure hockey acquisition (we’ve got some great analysis of this trade coming up later today with some help from All About the Jersey’s C.J. Turtoro), but he’s been a fan favorite everywhere he’s played.
How to Watch:
The game starts at 7 PM Central. You can watch it on FS-TN, listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game, or go to Bridgestone Arena—assuming the rain’s stopped by now, anyway.
For those of you out of local TV blackout range, it’s also the NHLtv Free Game today.