Stars hope to close playoff gap as they welcome Preds
PREDATORS (33-19-6) at STARS (29-25-4)
TV: FS-Tennessee, FS-Southwest
Nashville 5-3-2; Dallas 4-4-2.
This is the third of four meetings between the teams. Dallas is 2-0-0 against Nashville this season, including a 4-1 win at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 5.
Nashville is 15-5-2 in last 22 games, yet the Preds have experienced difficulty gaining much ground in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. They enter Sunday’s action in fifth place, just three points ahead of No. 6 Chicago. Nashville trails St. Louis by seven points for the No. 4 seed, which guarantees home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Hoping to close the gap, the Preds added some experience to their blue line Friday with the acquisition of Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens. In order to land the veteran defenseman, Nashville general manager David Poile was forced to part with young forwards Blake Geoffrion and Robert Slaney and a second-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft. The Predators will receive a conditional fifth-round pick in 2013 if Geoffrion plays 40 NHL games for the Canadiens next season.
From 2008-10, Gill appeared in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with the Penguins and then the Eastern Conference Finals with the Canadiens. He won a championship with Pittsburgh in 2009.
"That's the kind of experience we're missing," Poile said. "Last year at this time when we made the deal for Mike Fisher, I was saying similar things. Mike was a veteran player, playoff proven, who brought a lot of leadership to our hockey club, so obviously we're hoping for the same thing here with Hal Gill."
Nashville has suffered from the “win one, lose one” syndrome as of late, as it followed up 3-2 win against Chicago last Tuesday with a 2-1 loss at Detroit on Friday night. The good news, however, is that the Preds will open up a four-game homestand after Sunday’s trip to Dallas.
Nashville came awfully close to earning at least a point against the Red Wings, but Pavel Datsyuk broke a 1-1 tie with five seconds remaining in regulation.
"We should've had a point tonight," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "We're 5 seconds away from getting a point. But great players make great plays."
Dallas came up short Saturday night in a 2-1 overtime loss at Phoenix, but it did manage to earn at least a point for a second straight game. The Stars outplayed the Coyotes for a good portion of the contest, but a turnover in their own end of the ice led to an overtime goal by Radim Vrbata.
The overtime loss gives Dallas 62 points – three behind Los Angeles for the final playoff spot in the West.
“We played hard, but we need results,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “It’s a results-based business and we need results. We need to capitalize and we can’t make a mistake at the end to give away a point.”
Preds center Mike Fisher has 3 goals in his last seven games, while goaltender Pekka Rinne has allowed two or fewer goals in three of his last six starts. … Stars forward Michael Ryder
tallied his 22nd goal of the season Saturday night. He has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 10 games.
Nashville forwards Patric Hornqvist and Brian McGrattan are both out indefinitely with upper-body injuries. … Stars captain Brenden Morrow
is out with an upper-body injury. Jamie Benn
(knee) and Sheldon Souray
(foot) both missed Saturday’s game and are day-to-day.
The Predators fell to 14-1-1 when center Nick Spaling scores. Friday night marked the first regulation loss in a game in which he has scored.
“Obviously, we would have liked to get the two points, but we just got to focus. We got a big game tomorrow night against Nashville, so we got to forget about this one and move on.” – Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas
after Saturday’s overtime loss at Phoenix