Nashville Predators: Predators And Stars Look To Make It Two In A Row

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators meet a team expected to contend for the Central Division & Western Conference Championship tonight.

The Nashville Predators had themselves an emotional roller coaster of a home opener Tuesday night. Up early, down in the middle, up at the end. It was a lot of fun (for the most part) for us. Thursday night brings the Predators’ first Central Division opponent of the season to Bridgestone Arena.

The Dallas Stars had great expectations for the 2016-17 season, but they didn’t meet any of them. Dallas has had a tendency in recent years of making big moves in free agency & making changes in the coaching staff at the drop of a hat. You’ll be seeing a lot of names in this game preview that you won’t recognize as Stars.

Meet the Dallas Stars

A familiar face leads the Stars into Smashville Thursday night. You’ll remember Ken Hitchcock as the longtime coach of the St. Louis Blues. Many years before that he coached the Stars. Dallas fans are hoping that Hitchcock can return the Stars to the form they showed in his first stint. Which was highlighted by a Stanley Cup. A win tonight would move Hitchcock past Al Arbour into third place on the NHL all-time victory list.

Predators fans certainly remember Alexander Radulov. Radulov’s controversial departure & poor behavior during his time in Nashville meant he got the opposite reception from the fans that Shea Weber did when the former Predator returned as members of the Montreal Canadiens. Radulov signed a 5-year $31.25 million contract with the Stars during the off-season. He’ll get the type of treatment from Predators fans that P.K. Subban gets in many arenas.

Radulov’s linemates early in the season have been Tyler Seguin & team captain Jamie Benn. Seguin has been one of the NHL’s best centers for the past several seasons. He takes a lot of shots, and so far has missed most of them. Benn is off to a bit of a slow start but nobody seems too worried about it. Expect to see them matched up with Nashville’s JoFA line most of the evening.

Martin Hanzal‘s move from the Arizona Coyotes made big waves last season. After spending over nine and a half seasons in Arizona, Hanzal only lasted twenty games and a postseason series with the Minnesota Wild before making the move to Dallas. He’s been held to one goal thus far, but don’t be surprised if you hear his name tonight.

Marc Methot had been Erik Karlsson‘s longtime defense partner on the Ottawa Senators. The Vegas Golden Knights took him away in the Expansion Draft, and then the Stars traded for him. Methot hasn’t found his footing in Dallas. Though, it will take some time.

Goaltending has been one of the Stars’ main weaknesses over the past few years. They attempted to address this over the off-season by signing Ben Bishop. Bishop got off to a rough start, as he was taken out of Game 1 after taking a puck off of his goalie mask. He came back strong in Game 3 against the Detroit Red Wings and didn’t seem to show any ill effects. He’s expected to start tonight over longtime Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. I would much rather see Lehtonen tonight.

Predators try to find consistency

The Predators finally got a win on Tuesday night and looked great at the beginning & end of the game. The less said about the middle the better. What we can say is that their defense & goaltending has been lacking. Heck, they’ve looked like Dallas Stars teams of recent years.

Scott Hartnell has been a pleasant surprise this far in his return to Nashville. Three goals in three games aren’t too shabby. He has been a good presence on the second line while the usual suspects hold it down on the first. Filip Forsberg is tied with Hartnell for the team goal lead (might be the last time we can say that), while Viktor Arvidsson continues to bring good energy at all times. Ryan Johansen has been directing traffic & delivering the puck to the right places.

The defense is a shell of it’s former self thanks to injury. Sounds familiar, right? Roman Josi‘s absence from Game 3 led to Samuel Girard making his NHL debut. I thought he did a heck of a job for a 19 year old kid, and would be fine with seeing him again tonight in another home game. Whether P.K. Subban & Mattias Ekholm are together at the start or not, expect to see them get the lions’ share of minutes.

Pekka Rinne is expected to start tonight. He will need to be better. I’m as high on Pekka as anybody, but he’s in one of those bad stretches right now. Unfortunately for Nashville, Juuse Saros struggled through preseason & didn’t look good in Pittsburgh. Whoever’s in goal will have their hands full, as Dallas put 4 goals on the board in Detroit and seems to have things on track.

Likely Line-ups

Hitchcock was happy with the Dallas lineup’s performance on Tuesday night, and all indications are that it will remain the same for Thursday night’s game. Here’s what it looked like:



Nashville’s lineup will not see any change from Tuesday. Roman Josi & Colton Sissons will still recover in the pressbox while Girard plays with Ekholm.

Follow the game

Television coverage will start at 6:30 PM Central/7:30 PM Eastern on Fox Sports Tennessee with Predators Live! Pregame featuring the vivacious Lyndsay Rowley & the distinguished Terry Crisp. Willy Daunic & Chris Mason will have the call when the puck drops a little after 7:00 PM Central/8:00 PM Eastern. Pete Weber & Hal Gill will handle radio coverage for 102.5 The Game.

Next: Analyzing a Night Of Pure Offense From Preds and Flyers