NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 23rd (All times eastern)
Dallas Stars (31-27-14) at Nashville Predators (42-26-5), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Riding a perfectly-timed six-game winning streak, the Nashville Predators begin a stretch of three straight contests at Bridgestone Arena with tonight's clash against the Dallas Stars.
Nashville stands a good shot of returning to the Western Conference playoffs after a one-year absence and has greatly enhanced its postseason chances with this current tear, which was extended with Sunday's 3-2 road triumph over St. Louis. The Predators are now 9-3-0 since the Olympic break and have moved into a tie with Los Angeles for fifth place in the conference standings, although the Kings hold two games in hand.
The Preds received goals from Patric Hornqvist and Dustin Boyd 48 seconds apart in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie against the Blues, while red-hot goaltender Pekka Rinne made the lead hold up by recording 23 saves on the evening.
Boyd also scored in the second period for Nashville, which finished with a 39-25 advantage in shots.
"I thought we were generating more chances, we were quicker on the puck. It was a good win for us," said Nashville head coach Barry Trotz.
Rinne has played a major role in Nashville's surge, as the Finnish backstop has posted three shutouts and a stellar 1.14 goals against average over the course of the team's winning streak. He was tabbed as the NHL's First Star of the Week for games played between March 15-21 on Monday.
The Predators will be vying to win seven in a row for the second time this season, having previously done so between November 12-25. The club has also won three straight and five of its last six on home ice and sports a solid 21-12-2 mark at Bridgestone Arena for the season.
Nashville prevailed despite being without captain Jason Arnott, who sat out after sustaining a blow to the head in Saturday's 1-0 win over Columbus. The 35-year-old, who's recorded a goal and four assists over his last five outings, is considered day-to-day.
While Nashville has greatly bolstered its postseason cause as of late, the Stars may have played their way out of the race with their performance following the Winter Olympics. Dallas is just 3-6-2 since the NHL returned from its extended stoppage for the Vancouver Games and now finds itself tied for 11th place in the West, nine points behind Detroit for the conference's eighth and final playoff seed.
The Stars were able to notch a point in their latest defeat, a 3-2 shootout setback at home to scorching Phoenix on Sunday.
Dallas forced overtime on Loui Eriksson's re-direction of a Brad Richards shot with 7:11 remaining in the third period, and Richards began the shootout by beating Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbara for a 1-0 edge. However, Radim Vrbata scored in the third round to keep Phoenix alive and after LaBarbara made a glove save on Steve Ott, Adrian Aucoin fired a wrister past the Stars' Marty Turco to give the Coyotes their ninth consecutive win.
It's too bad we lost the game. We need all the points we can get and we lost one today," Eriksson said.
Richards' assist gave him at least one point in five straight contests, with the standout center having compiled three goals and five assists over that span. Nashville forward Martin Erat also brings a five-game point streak into tonight's tilt and has a goal and five assists over his run.
The Predators have won two of their three previous meetings with the Stars this season and have defeated Dallas three straight times in the Music City.
03/23 10:49:49 ET