Aligned divisions have broken up some rivalries, but we all know all too well about the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.
The Predators and Stars are doing battle on the ice against each other once again, and there’s no shortage of storylines for this one. Two teams that have built a fresh rivalry in recent years.
It doesn’t get any more odd than this, but the Stars are the only team that hasn’t played a game yet in the NHL as they’ll face the Predators on Friday night. This has been due to their COVID-19 outbreak that saw 17 players deal with positive tests just after training camp started.
The Predators have also already dealt with a game postponement due to COVID-19 issues surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes from earlier in the week.
The Stars haven’t played a game in almost four months when they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Predators already have three games under their belt, but are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Hurricanes on Monday.
A fresh and hungry opponent
These two teams always play heated battles, and the Stars are a team mixed with young talent and veteran leadership. They’re led by Jamie Benn, but are also missing their other top player in Tyler Seguin.
Of course as Predators fans we can’t leave out our old friend in Alexander Radulov. An aging veteran who saw his ice time dip last season, but still is a dangerous offensive player.
Dallas Head Coach Rich Bowness told the Associated Press how much his team will be ready to go in their season-opener against Nashville:
"“Right now, listen, we’re all ready for a game. We’re ready to plan an opponent, play against an opponent other than our own teammates”."
This matchup worries me from a Predators perspective. They have to come into this game laser focused and mistake free. The Stars are going to be angry and ready to go after missing over a week of the first portion of the season.
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That’s not even to mention the Stars are the defending Western Conference champs and a very disciplined defensive team that protect their goaltender, Anton Khudobin.
Khudobin put up dominating numbers against the Predators last season with a .957 save percentage and less than two goals allowed per game.
The Predators offense has been less than stellar so far. They’ve had some flashes, including Filip Forsberg scoring a goal in each of the three games. But their defense has been what’s kept them in all three games, and allowed them to win their first two over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Players to watch
Benn is the major weapon for the Stars. He’s a true veteran leader that does it all. He’ll score you big goals, but will also make the necessary defensive plays and make things happen for his teammates.
Roope Hintz is expected to be on the top line as well, and he shouldn’t be overlooked. Another dangerous offensive weapon that the Predators can’t let get loose for easy scoring chances.
On the Predators’ side, the practice rushes got shifted a little bit on Thursday per Brooks Bratten:
The big question is how will Mikael Granlund‘s return to the lineup shift things. It’s the hope that he gets into the lineup for Sunday’s tilt with Dallas.
With Calle Jarnkrok not in this practice session, we’ll have to see if both Yakov Trenin and Mathieu Olivier get into the starting lineup at the same time. Two bruisers who have worked their way up from the AHL to get these valuable NHL minutes.
I won’t be shocked at all if this is another low-scoring, bruising type of a game. A game with not much room to operate and a couple mistakes by either team being the difference.
The Predators made just a couple bad errors in their loss to a solid Hurricanes team and it was enough to end in a loss even though overall they played a pretty solid game.
This game will be no different. The Stars might have to shake a little rust off, but they’re still the defending Western Conference champs for a reason. The Predators will have to play a very disciplined game and take advantage if power plays are awarded.
If the Stars are rusty, they might commit some untimely penalties that the Predators need to seize the opportunity on.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. CDT from Dallas and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee and also streamed on ESPN+.