Stars strive to stay alive as they challenge Predators
STARS (42-33-5) at PREDATORS (46-26-8)
TV: FS-SW (HD), FS-TN (HD)
Dallas 3-7-0; Nashville 5-5-0
Fourth and final meeting. The Stars outscored the Predators 10-4 in taking the first two matchups before Nashville claimed a 3-2 win in on Dallas on Feb. 19. Mike Ribeiro
leads all scorers with 3 goals and 5 points, and has both of the Stars' game-winners.
While the Predators battle it out for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Stars are fighting just to make it to Saturday. Dallas needs at least a point out of Thursday's game, and probably two. Even that might not be enough, depending upon what happens in the San Jose-Los Angeles game on Thursday and the Phoenix-St. Louis game on Friday.
Just over a week ago, Dallas moved into first place in the Pacific Division following a win in Edmonton. Nothing good has happened since for the Stars. Three consecutive losses and they've fallen from third to ninth in the West, three points out of a playoff spot. The Stars can still catch any of the three teams ahead of them in the division, but that probably means winning both Thursday and at home Saturday against St. Louis while either the Kings, Coyotes or Sharks lose out.
"It's going to be tough, but we just can't quit," captain Brenden Morrow
said earlier this week. "Stranger things have happened. We're going to need a lot of help, some people doing us some favors, but we're not going to quit around here, we're going to get back to work."
At the moment Nashville sits fifth in the West, but the Predators can still climb to fourth (one point behind Detroit) or fall to sixth (two points in front of Chicago) depending what happens over the final three days. They've reached 100 points for the fourth time in seven seasons and will look to build off a 2-1 shootout victory Tuesday over the Wild in which Alexander Radulov scored the decisive goal. Gabriel Bourque had their only goal in regulation and Anders Lindback, giving Pekka Rinne a rare night's rest before the playoffs, finished with 18 saves.
"The win is the most important thing," captain Shea Weber said. "Obviously, we're somewhat in control of where we can finish. We can guarantee ourselves fifth. We've got to keep going."
Radulov didn't register a point Tuesday, but he did have the only goal of the shootout and he has 3 goals and 3 assists in seven games since returning to the Predators.
Dallas forwards Tom Wandell
(illness) and Radek Dvorak
(ankle) are day-to-day. … Rinne has been battling a virus and it's possible he could be rested again Thursday.
The Stars could use a boost from their power play, which has gone 1-for-21 over the last seven games to fall to 30th in the NHL at 14 percent. … Predators defenseman Ryan Suter had a stretch of 27 straight games without taking a penalty end against the Wild.
This is essentially a playoff game for Dallas as it looks to stay alive, and Nashville sees it as good preparation for when the puck actually does drop on the postseason next week.
"It will be a good game for us to play because they'll be playing playoff-style hockey, and that's what we're going to be playing and what we need to be playing," forward Paul Gaustad said in the Tennessean. "They'll be playing extremely hard and we have to match and exceed their work effort."