Game 81 Preview: Dallas Stars @ Nashville Predators

Dallas Stars (42-33-5, 89 pts) @ Nashville Predators (46-26-8, 100 pts)

7:00 PM CT, April 5, 2012

Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee


The Stars’ playoff hopes are teetering on the edge heading into tonight’s game. There’s one foot over the cliff and the second is already making a step, but this team is yet alive (even of just barely). It’s going to take a miracle to get them into the playoffs and the best thing that the Stars can do is to take care of things on their end. This means beating a solid, Cup contending Nashville Predators team.

Dallas failed miserably in the series finale against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. The 5-2 loss put the Stars into a three game losing streak, their longest such streak since a three game stretch from Feb. 10 to Feb 14. It came at the worst possible time in the season and it knocked the Stars from a division lead to dying a slow death in the ninth spot in the Western Conference. 

Dallas just has to play hockey tonight. Simple, smart hockey. It’s what’s been eluding them in the past week so if there’s ever a team to find that again, it’s tonight. They’ve actually managed to beat the Predators twice so far this season so it’s more than possible to get done.

It’s Kari Lehtonen back in net tonight. He’s 1-1-0 against Nashville this season, but hasn’t done very well in the past two weeks of the season. He’s given up five, one, four, three and then four goals in the past five games. Tough to win like that.

Radek Dvorak is questionable with an ankle injury.

Notes and thoughts:

  • For the love of everything that is holy, CHANGE. THE. POWER. PLAY. It’s already pretty much too late for this team, so why not experiment.
  • Loui Eriksson has done pretty much nothing on the offensive side of the ice for two weeks now. In seven games, he only has two points (both assists in the same game). He’s still been doing good defensive work though and a lot of his offensive troubles can be attributed to Mike Ribeiro.
  • Ribs has really struggled in the past week, getting only one point during the three game losing streak. He’s barely getting shots on net (about two per game), losing a bunch of face-offs (11 of 28) and turning the puck over at an alarming rate. He was pretty much invisible in the home-and-home against the Sharks.
  • Dallas won’t have to worry too much about help tonight. First off, they have to win. The Sharks and Kings happen to play each other and Phoenix is idle. Ideally for Dallas, the Sharks would lose tonight in regulation. As long as it stays out of overtime, it’s a good deal for Dallas.
  • The Stars penalty kill, which was so good in March, has given up at least one power play goal in four of the last five games.
  • Dallas’ big guns have done well against the Preds this season. Benn has two goals and two assists in two games played. Ribeiro has three goals and two assists in three games and Eriksson has one goal and four assists in three games. They have to score if Dallas wants to win.

more after the jump



It’s been a while since the Stars have seen the Nashville Predators and the team has changed a little bit. They’ve just been sort of meandering along lately, going 5-5-0 in the past 10 games. Their playoff spot is secure, but they’re only one point out of the fourth spot in the West and home ice advantage, so they still have a lot to play for.

The big change in this team is that they added Russian import Alexander Radulov in late March. The high scoring winger has six points (three goals, three assists) in the seven games he has played in and is getting a ton of ice time (about 20 minutes per game). I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him burn Dallas tonight. 

Pekka Rinne is questionable to start tonight. He missed the Preds last game with an illness and is still dealing with it. He’s struggled a bit against the Stars this season, going 1-2-0 with a 4.08 GAA and a .852 save percentage. He was chased from the first game in just 12 minutes after allowing three goals.

Anders Lineback is the backup. He played in the first game against Dallas after Rinne was pulled. He allowed two goals on 21 shots.

There are no other real injury concerns for Nashville.

Notes and thoughts:

  • Nashville is 25-10-5 at home this season.
  • In each of the Predators last five losses, they have allowed at least three goals. Dallas just needs to get pucks flowing towards the net and make whoever the goalie is work.
  • This is the last home game of the season for Nashville so the crowd will be pumped.
  • Nashville has points up and down the lineup against Dallas this year. No player has more than two points in the season series.

Season Series:

  • Dec. 23 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 6 – Nashville 3
  • Jan. 5 @ Bridgestone Arena: Dallas 4 – Nashville 2
  • Feb. 19 @ American Airlines Center – Dallas 2 – Nashville 3

Series Stats:

 Dallas Nashville
Goals per game 4 2.7
Shots per game 27.7 27.7
Hits per game 24 23.7
PIM per game 9 7.7
Power Play 0 of 8 3 of 11 (27%)
Penalty Kill 8 of 11 (73%) 8 of 8