The Nashville Predators finish their last extended road trip of the season tonight against the Dallas Stars.
Six points up on the Predators in the Western Conference standings, the Stars are trying to hold on to the final Western Conference wild card spot and stave off a late-season push by Nashville. Like the Predators, the Stars missed the playoffs last season, but increased offensive production thanks to a trade for forward Tyler Seguin and the drafting of Valeri Nichushkin has Dallas in a much better position this year.
Nashville will be pushing for their longest win streak of the season when they try to make it four victories in a row. Five goals and eight points in a week from Predators forward Patric Hornqvist guided Nashville to a perfect week last week and helped the team take down the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks with ease (and the Washington Capitals in a shootout).
The Stars pummeled the Predators near the end of March to even the teams’ season series at two games a piece. The home team has won each contest, with the Stars lighting the lamp just twice in a pair of games in Nashville, but scoring 11 times at the American Airlines Center.
What to keep an eye on tonight:
Cullen-Fisher-Hornqvist line: Recently, most of the Predators offense has come from one place. Forwards Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher and Patric Hornqvist tallied 24 points and were a combined plus-21 last week. Moving up and down Nashville’s lineup while at center for most of the season, the 37-year-old Cullen seems to have found a comfortable spot on the wing alongside Fisher. A lot of pressure is removed from a team’s other three lines when the top unit is scoring and that’s just what’s happening for the Predators. The team has scored no less than three goals each of their last six games.
Familiar place and opponent: The last home game for the Stars was actually their contest against the Predators on March 28th. Since then the club has gone on a five-game road trip, four of which were against Eastern Conference opponents. Holding onto the final West wild card spot by a single point, every game is vital for the Stars and losses to the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes last week had to have the team longing of home. Easily beating the Predators 7-3 in their last inter-conference home game, a matchup with a divisional rival may be just what the Stars need to get back on track.
The pucks drops at 7:30 p.m. (CST). Likely starters in net are Pekka Rinne for Nashville and Kari Lehtonen for Dallas.