The Preds have had it a little rough this season. (PHOTO: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

Gameday: Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators, 2/25/13

DALLAS STARS

at NASHVILLE PREDATORS

February 25th, 2013
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: NBC Sports Network

The Nashville Predators meet the Dallas Stars for the first time this season tonight in Nashville. It’s the final home game for the Predators before a three-game road trip. Preds fans will be hoping to see some offense, given that the team hasn’t scored in two consecutive games. Plus there’s that whole “don’t get embarrassed on national television” thing…

DALLAS STARS

(9-8-1, 3rd in Pacific)

Dallas has had no trouble scoring goals lately, putting up at least three in nine straight games. Yet the team is missing its top goalie and one of its top forwards.

Jamie Benn fights off Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi

Jamie Benn has been the Stars’ top forward this season. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Jamie Benn (6G-7A) missed five games holding out for a contract at the beginning of this season. It took him a few games to find his touch but now he’s back with a vengeance. Dallas’ resurgence has coincided with his return: he has 13 points in 13 games, with 12 of those coming in the last nine.

Cristopher Nilstorp (1-3-0, 2.60 GAA, .913 SV%) is likely to get the nod in net tonight as Kari Lehtonen (7-2-1, 2.12, .934) is still nursing a groin injury. The Preds have had difficulty with Swedish NHL rookie goalies this season. Can Nilstorp continue that budding tradition?

Dallas Stars forward Michael Ryder

Dallas forward Michael Ryder draws a lot of defensive attention, and rightfully so. (PHOTO: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Michael Ryder (6G-5A) has goals in two straight games and points in his last five. Two of his six goals this season have come on the Dallas power play, and he has only been held without a shot in three of 18 games this season.

Jaromir Jagr (5G-8A) put up a goal and an assist two nights ago against San Jose. The 41-year-old’s scoring has been sporadic over the course of this season but he’s an ever-present danger.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(8-6-5, 4th in Central)

Two shutout losses in a row, coupled with two straight wins by Detroit, have sunk the Preds to fourth place in the Central Division. They’re 1-3-1 in their last five games and 4-4-2 in their last 10. This team is need of offense, and in a hurry.

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne

Pekka has been carrying the team on his back all season. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Pekka Rinne (7-5-4, 1.77, .931) is the duct tape that’s holding this team together right now, and the theory that “duct tape fixes everything” is being put to a most serious test right now. If he could just figure out a way to score goals, the Preds would be in business.

 

Shea Weber (3G-4A) was the last Nashville Predators player to score a goal. His overtime winner against Detroit last Tuesday was thrilling, but the team has been stuck in neutral ever since. Come on, Captain – give these boys a boost!

Others to watch

Colin Wilson (5G-9A), Martin Erat (3G-7A), Mike Fisher (3G-4A), and Sergei Kostitsyn (2G-5A) are the leading forwards on this team. David Legwand (3G-3A), Gabriel Bourque (4G-2A), and Patric Hornqvist (1G-4A) are right behind them. Each of these forwards has gone scoreless (along with the rest of the team) for the last 120 minutes. To do so again tonight would set a new franchise record for futility in front of goal.

Bottom line

This game is the Nashville Predators’ wake-up call. Will they answer it? Or will they continue to do the hockey version of hitting snooze six times in an hour?

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