In less than three weeks, the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars will meet in each team’s first ever Winter Classic appearance.
As a preview of that matchup, the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars will meet at Bridgestone Arena for the first meeting of the season. Also the first meeting since the Stars eliminated the Predators in the first round of the playoffs.
That elimination in six games still stings for Predators fans, and I’m sure it does exponentially for the players and coaches. This one means a lot for this team’s psyche, and also means a lot in terms of the standings as the Predators are trying to get back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Predators are coming off a high-scoring game with the Buffalo Sabres, which ended in a 4-3 loss for Nashville. It was only the second regulation loss for the Predators since October 21st, so that’s something to be proud of.
Stars are looking strong
After starting off so horrendously, the Stars are now suddenly looking like a real contender to win the Central Division and even represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. They’re loaded all over their roster.
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The Stars check all the boxes. They have outstanding goaltending led by Ben Bishop, have a deep crop of forwards, a lethal top two lines and a respectable defense. Which is why it was so baffling that they started off so bad.
We’re going to get a good idea about where the Predators truly stand right now after this game. Yes, the Predators have managed some wins lately and are getting points. However, they’ve beaten some average to mediocre teams during that stretch aside from the Blues and Hurricanes.
The good teams they did face during that stretch they either loss in overtime to or lost in regulation. Now it’s time for the Predators to get a statement win over a divisional opponent just like they did in back-to-back nights against the Blues to end their six-game losing streak last month.
The Stars do have a couple things working against them heading into this one. They have an interim head coach now after Jim Montgomery was shockingly fired for “unprofessional conduct”. I’m going to leave alone what exactly happened because it’s not entirely clear, but that does have to sting big time for a team to lose such a successful head coach.
They’re also coming into this road game in Nashville on the back end of a back-to-back. They took a loss to Vegas last night in overtime. So hopefully a Stars team depleted of some energy will roll into this one tonight.
Who to watch for
When it comes to the Stars, they have no shortage of weapons. I’ll start with their commonly known cast of veterans like Tyler Seguin (23 points), Jamie Benn (16 points) and Alexander Radulov (19 points). This is their “Big Three” of sorts, but they don’t always line up together on their top line.
Dallas likes to shuffle their lines a lot, much like Nashville was doing a lot in November. However for Dallas, it seems to work.
You can’t overlook their 23-year-old winger Roope Hintz who leads the team in goals with 11. He’s in just his second NHL season and had two goals in Game 4 last season against Nashville that tied the series. That was the turning point of that series.
Defensively they’re led by Miro Heiskanen, a young but talented defenseman who is just 20-years-old. He has 21 points in 32 games this season.
Bishop is their main goaltender and an early candidate for the Vezina Trophy. His stats are ridiculous with a 2.07 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. He rarely gives up more than two or three goals and always gives his team a great chance to win when he starts.
Since Bishop started last night against Vegas, I’d expect Anton Khudobin to start in this one. He’s no cake walk either in net despite being a backup. So the Predators are going to have to be solid defensively in this one because I don’t see them scoring more than two or three goals.
If the Predators are going to start making up ground in the Central Division, they have to obviously start winning games against teams ahead of them. This was is about as big as a December game can be. Both for the psyche of the team and for the standings.
The Predators’ power play is going to be tested when and if they get opportunities in this one. Dallas has one of the best penalty kills and the best defensive efficiency in the league as they only surrender 2.33 goals per game.
Nick Bonino wildly leads the Predators in goal at 12, with Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok tied with 11 goals. Roman Josi leads the team in points with 26 points, followed by Jarnkrok and Forsberg with 22.
It’s going to take one of the best performances of the season for the Predators to win this one. They need statement wins, and this would be a good start. Puck drop is earlier than normal at 5:30 CDT. Show up and support this team as this season isn’t lost yet.