In the final meeting of the season, the Dallas Stars face the Nashville Predators tonight at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. While Dallas sits in 10th place just three points out of the top eight, Nashville has fallen to 13th and has lost five out of the six games played in April, winning only to Colorado, who’s lingering at the bottom of the conference with Calgary.
The Stars are coming off a remarkable three-game win streak against inter-division California rivals Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles. Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champions stretched the Stars’ win streak to three, and a victory tonight would tie the longest streak the team has had this season.
The recent inflow of youth to the team through trades and recalls from Dallas’ Austin-based farm team has been a huge source of energy for the Stars. New Stars like Lane MacDermid and Alex Chaisson have grown from farm-team forwards to NHL rock stars. Both played huge roles in igniting the rocket that is propelling the Stars past team after team in the conference standings.
It hasn’t been all about the rookies though, and well-known names like Ray Whitney and Loui Eriksson have provided a balance between youth and experience that hasn’t been matched yet. Whitney was responsible for two of the Stars’ five goals Tuesday, and Eriksson notched an assist in Tuesday’s game and an assist in Sunday’s game against San Jose. Eriksson leads the team in goal scoring with 10 with Whitney right behind him at nine.
Starting goalie Kari Lehtonen will likely be on the bench tonight, nursing a mild groin injury incurred in Tuesday’s game. The Stars have been without Lehtonen between the pipes for an entire 60 minutes only four other times this season, bringing home a victory with Richard Bachman bringing as backup three of those four times, including Tuesday’s win over Los Angeles. Bachman denied 22 of 22 shots the Kings sent his way.
Nashville has had the upper hand against the Stars in the season’s previous two meetings, but that certainly isn’t an indicator of how tonight’s match may go. The Predators are short three strong forwards in Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad and Gabriel Bourque, all out with injuries, and much like the Stars, the Predators lineup is full of AHL farm teamers.
The first puck drops tonight at 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.