Game Preview/Live Thread: Nashville Predators @ Dallas Stars 2/9/22

The teams are back in action.

After the All-Star break, the Nashville Predators are back in action tonight against the Dallas Stars. A season currently only good for fifth in the Central (23-18-2, still a very slightly winning record) has caused the Stars’ playoff chances to dwindle, but some good fortune for them and bad fortune for their division rivals could still turn that around pretty quickly, and if they’re still hoping to make the playoffs that fortune might need to start tonight.

Unfortunately for the Stars, they’ve been playing a pretty average game at 5v5. They don’t give up a ton, but they’re not defensively elite; they also don’t create enough for themselves to consistently make their games “good team defense” instead of just “slow”.

They make up for that on the power play, where they’re combining good offense with good scoring. Their penalty kill has struggled due entirely to goaltending: the defense is stifling, but the goals still happen. If the Preds can get some power plays without—and let me repeat this again on the off-chance any of them are reading OTF this afternoon, without—taking too many penalties of their own, that could benefit them a lot, but it’s a risky game to play when the Stars don’t take that many penalties to start with. One small mercy: they also don’t draw that many.

Braden Holtby is back from injury and is expected to back up 23-year-old Jake Oettinger in net today. The goalies have near-identical save percentages (.912 for Oettinger, .913 for Holtby) but Oettinger has had a slightly easier workload so far this season, playing fewer games and facing fewer—and easier—shots in those games. It’ll be the Preds’ job to change that up this evening.

On offense, Joe Pavelski leads the team with 48 points and 29 assists. After him, though, most of the top contributors are young, and are probably going to be thorns in the Preds’ sides for a while. Jason Robertson is just behind Pavelski in both categories, with 41 points and 24 assists. Roope Hintz, third in points with 37, has the team lead in goals with 20 (beating Pavelski by one). Miro Heiskanen has also been racking up the assists, while still playing great defensively.

Those four are the Stars’ biggest gamechangers at the moment, with most of the rest of the team having little or negative impact on expected goals. Ryan Suter is the only other regular who’s above water in xG impact, as measured by HockeyViz; given that, it’s not too surprising that he’s ended up in a top-pairing role with the Stars. John Klingberg has been having a rough year, though he has tied Tyler Seguin for fifth in team scoring despite that.

Seguin, Jamie Benn, and especially Alexander Radulov have also been having subpar seasons; in Radulov’s case, it may be age catching up with him, while Seguin and Benn must be wishing they could help give their struggling team a boost. Still, even without those three, the Stars can still score, and the Preds shouldn’t dismiss them—with those three, they can score a lot more.

How to Watch

The game airs at 7PM Central on TNT, or you can catch the radio call on 102.5 The Game.

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