Nashville Predators Set to Return in Exhibition vs. Dallas Stars

Dan Hamhuis #5 of the Nashville Predators and Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas (Photo by Stars (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Dan Hamhuis #5 of the Nashville Predators and Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas (Photo by Stars (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The long wait is finally over as it’s game day for the Nashville Predators as they’ll take on a familiar division foe in exhibition action.

Today’s matchup with the Dallas Stars marks the only tune-up game for the Nashville Predators before clashing with the Arizona Coyotes in the Western Conference qualifying round.

The lineup that’s put out against the Stars should be very similar to what Head Coach John Hynes plans to employ against the Coyotes in Game 1 on Sunday.

There’s already been several exhibition games around the NHL, and most of the games have offered plenty of intensity considering the games don’t actually count.

A building rivalry

For the Predators and Stars, these are two teams that are starting to build a decent rivalry of their own. They played last season in the first round of the playoffs, and the Predators were eliminated in six games and badly outplayed.

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This is a good first test for the veteran Predators. The Stars are a very disciplined team both offensively and defensively. They’re not easy to score on and have strong goaltending, much like the Coyotes do.

We’re going to get a good idea of where the Predators are after two weeks of training camp after this exhibition game. All indications were that training camp went very well for the Predators and the team is ready to go.

The Predators got two impressive back-to-back shutout victories over the Stars just before the pause in early March. Juuse Saros got both shutouts, and he should get the start in this one to see if he can pick up where he left off.

Saros looked sharp in training camp, but Pekka Rinne has that playoff pedigree that will make this decision on who to start tough for Hynes. A combination of both should get playing time in the exhibition game.

Expect to see both Rinne and Saros get some ice time today. Hynes has also stated that he wants to utilize the entire lineup and let guys get a “good taste of it”, per Brooks Bratten of Nashville Predators official website.

Although a win won’t necessarily get the Predators any closer to a Stanley Cup, it will give a confidence boost to a team that was playing pretty well before the pause.

Saros has had a lot of success over the Stars in seven career appearances, winning six of seven and posting a GAA below two goals per game:

Line combinations will be an indication of what they will look like against Arizona. It’s expected that the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson will be reunited. Seeing if they can recapture some old success in this one against the Stars will be interesting to watch.

Also an extra forward and defenseman can dress for this game, so who Hynes chooses to go with will offer some insight on a couple players who are on the cusp of getting a starting spot.

Those two spots should go to Eeli Tolvanen and Alexandre Carrier. Two players who are going to be called upon in the near future and can bring a different dynamic offensively than what the Predators have been going with at the bottom parts of their depth chart.

The actual final score won’t be nearly as important as seeing how the team performs overall in some weak areas like the power play, penalty kill and defensively in front of their goaltenders.

What’s most important about this exhibition is making adjustments to any areas the Predators struggle in or don’t execute well. There hasn’t been much time to get back into hockey shape, so today’s game is much more important than a ordinary preseason game in September.

Roman Josi led the Predators in points with 65, while the Stars went with a much more balanced scoring attack led by Tyler Seguin with 50 points.

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The Stars will be participating in the round robin bracket to try and snag the Western Conference’s top overall seed. They were struggling a bit down the stretch of the regular season, and the Predators had gotten to just six points behind for third place in the Central Division.

Puck drop is set for 3 P.M. CDT and will be televised locally on Fox Sports Tennessee and nationally on the USA Network.