at DALLAS STARS
March 12th, 2013
American Airlines Center
7:30 p.m. CDT
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Nashville leads season series 1-0
Now destined to become division rivals thanks to NHL realignment, the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars meet for the second time tonight in Dallas. The first game was a 5-4 overtime barnburner won by the Preds on the strength of two goals and two assists from Roman Josi.
(10-9-6, 4th in Central)
Tonight is the first of five straight road games for the Nashville Predators. They’ve gone just 0-5-1 over their last six away games and 3-6-1 overall in their last 10 games, making this game against another Western Conference bubble team more important than it might otherwise be. Raising the stakes, the team will have to come out on top without both Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist.
Shea Weber (3G-10A) has been playing well lately, moving into a tie for second on the team in points. Now he needs to find a way to help the rest of the team play up to his standard.
Pekka Rinne (9-8-5, 2.09 GAA, .920) was very public with his frustration after the team’s shootout loss to Minnesota. He’s playing well but needs some support from his teammates.
Others to watch
The lineup shuffling continues tonight. Matt Halischuk (0G-1A) is back from his conditioning stint in Milwaukee and looks like he’ll be playing in place of Zach Boychuk. He had two goals and an assist in two games with the Admirals. Brandon Yip (2G-3A), back from injured reserve, will also play. Meanwhile Mike Fisher (4G-6A) missed practice with the flu but is traveling with the team.
(12-10-2, 5th in Pacific)
The Pacific Division is this season’s Central, with a clear leader and a pack of teams jostling for position. which makes the Dallas Stars something like the Nashville Predators. They may be in fifth place but they’re in the thick of the playoff race.
Jaromir Jagr (10G-8A) leads the Dallas offense with 18 points and tops their power play with five, all despite being old enough to claim Social Security benefits. Last time out against the Preds he was silenced; can he be stopped a second time?
The Stars give up a lot of shots on goal – 30.2 per game – so it’s a good thing for them that Kari Lehtonen (9-4-1, 2.23, .929) is healthy right now. They’re 3-6-1 without the Finnish wonder.
Others to watch
Ray Whitney had six points in eight games before being placed on IR February 1st. His return tonight against Nashville could help to ease the pain of playing without second-leading scorer Jamie Benn (6G-10A).
Oftentimes leadership can be an overrated factor in hockey games, but tonight the Preds are facing a fellow bubble team here and they need to be led to a victory. Shea Weber and the rest of the veterans need to step up and start dragging this team along with them. They can’t turn this roster into a division winner but they can certainly help beat a bubble team at a crucial point in the season. At least, it’s fair of fans to expect them to do so. Whether or not they’re up to the task is a different matter.