The Predators return to the ice tonight after three days off over the Christmas break.
Another losing streak has taken up residence in Nashville as the Preds have dropped four-straight games, all of them against division leaders (Blackhawks, Lightning, Canadiens and Bruins).
While only claiming one of a possible eight points during this recent tour of top NHL teams can’t be seen as totally surprising, it is still very much disappointing.
Nashville has been the victim of committing the same mistakes time after time in the last four contests, as they’ve seen their defensive scheme carved to pieces and their offense sputter (while taking bad penalties). The Predators haven’t held the lead in any of their last four games (losing by a combined total of 17-8).
Following the team’s 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday night, head coach Barry Trotz explained how tough it seems for his club to win right now:
“That’s the psyche thing about it, that plays with your mind a little bit. Are we strong enough to get through this? Yeah. I believe that room (team) is strong enough to get through it, but reality is we’ve almost got to play a perfect game in order to win. We have a very, very young goaltender tandem [...] and a very young D-corps and we don’t have a lot of room for error. You’ve got to play really good and there isn’t a lot of room for mistakes.”
The Preds now stand at 16-17-4 (36 points) and sit nine points out of a wild card playoff spot.
Not many areas of this season have gone the way they were supposed to for Nashville, a team that wanted to jump back into the postseason after missing the playoffs last campaign (Preds had qualified the three previous seasons).
Tonight, the Preds face a team that is looking for a fast rebuild as well, the Dallas Stars (18-12-6, 42 points).
The Stars failed to make the playoffs last season, finishing 22-22-4 (48 points) and falling seven points short of the eight seed. This offseason, Dallas remodeled their club in a manner quite different from Nashville, however, putting most of their focus on the offensive side of the puck.
The team from the Lone Star State, pulled off a blockbuster trade for Tyler Seguin from Boston (now their No. 1 center) and used the 10th-overall pick on Valeri Nichushkin (who has contributed 19 points already, while spending time on the Stars top two lines).
Unlike Nashville, Dallas chose bigger, better forwards and currently it’s paying off.
Meanwhile, the Preds are finding their cupboard stocked with gritty fowards (who lack offensive talent) and a plethora of young defensive prospects–suddenly bare.
As new division rivals this season, Dallas and Nashville are being compared more than ever before and currently the Stars are easily leading in the standings and are in a much better position to find themselves back in the playoffs this spring.
The Predators and Stars will square off at 7:30 pm (CST) at American Airlines Center in Dallas.