As generous as the Hockey Gods were toward the Dallas Stars last season, they’ve been decidedly unkind so far in the 2016-17 campaign.
After 27 games last year, Dallas had 20 wins and needed binoculars to see the teams below them from their lofty perch atop the Western Conference. Fast-forward one year, and the club has just 10 wins and sits three points below the playoff cutoff. Two teams stand between the Stars and the final playoff seed. One of them is the Nashville Predators, who visit Big D tonight.
It’s the third meeting of the season between the two clubs and the first in Dallas. On October 18, Jason Spezza’s first goal of the season proved the game-winner in a tight 2-1 contest. The Stars’ Thanksgiving Eve return engagement in Music City didn’t end on a high note, however, as the Predators notched three third-period goals to hand the visitors a 5-2 loss.
The Preds currently hold a two-point lead over the Stars in the standings and have two games in hand, so the Boys in Victory Green really need a regulation (not overtime) win just to keep pace. NBCSN can keep their Wednesday Night Rivalry; Thursday night, the Stars and Predators have a Central Division Skirmish.
Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 pm CST
Broadcast channels – FS-SW, FS-TN
2016-17 Season Series: October 18 – Stars 2 – Predators 1
November 23 – Predators 5 – Stars 2
Nashville Predators – 12-9-4 – 28 Points
Road Record: 3-7-2
Hot Players: Mike Ribeiro, Colin Wilson and Roman Josi
Key Injuries: Ryan Ellis, Miikka Salomaki, Anthony Bitetto and Colton Sissons
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – James Neal
Kevin Fiala – Mike Ribiero – Filip Forsberg
Viktor Arvidsson – Ryan Johansen – Craig Smith
Austin Watson – Calle Jarnkrok – Frederick Gaudreau
Roman Josi – Matt Irwin
Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban
Adam Pardy – Yannick Weber
Starting Goaltender: Pekka Rinne
Dallas Stars – 10-11-6 – 26 Points
Home Record: 6-4-2
Hot Players: Tyler Seguin and Curtis McKenzie
Key Injuries: Julius Honka, Johnny Oduya, Jiri Hudler, Patrick Sharp, Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Tyler Seguin – Jason Spezza
Jamie Benn – Radek Faksa – Brett Ritchie
Lauri Korpikoski – Jason Dickinson – Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie – Cody Eakin – Devin Shore
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Dan Hamhuis – Stephen Johns
Starting Goaltender: Kari Lehtonen
1) The Stars called up Jason Dickinson from the AHL Tuesday. After missing time due to off-season hip surgery, the fleet-footed forward posted four goals and six assists in 13 games with Texas. Dickinson played one game for Dallas last season (his NHL debut) and scored his first NHL goal. The Stars are hoping for a repeat Thursday night.
2) Rookie defenseman Julius Honka, who quickly supplanted John Klingberg on the Stars’ top power play unit, left Tuesday’s game with an “upper-body” injury and has been ruled out for “a couple of games.” He’ll be missed Thursday night, but could return this weekend.
3) Speaking of defensemen, Thursday will mark P.K. Subban’s first appearance in Dallas since being traded to Nashville over the summer. He has seven goals on the season, which has him tied for third among blueliners.
4) At the morning skate, Dallas coach Lindy Ruff was very complimentary of the Nashville defense corps, calling their speed and talent “excellent.” He indicated speed on the forecheck would be key tonight, saying “…if the goaltender beats the first forechecker [with an outlet pass], that defense is way too good for those four guys you have remaining.”
5) What’s the difference between this year’s Predators with Subban and last year’s with Shea Weber? According to Ruff, Subban is faster and more of an offensive threat, whereas Weber is more physical and harder to play against in his own end. “Mean” and “punishing” were just a couple of the adjectives the coach used to describe Weber.
6) The award for Dallas Star Most Deserving of a Top Secret Security Clearance goes to…Radek Faksa. The team had an optional skate this morning, so there were no line rushes. Asked who his linemates would be tonight, Faksa said, “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say, so I’d rather not say anything. I don’t want the coaches to get mad.” Loose lips sink ships. Good man.