NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators will have its depth at forward tested against the Dallas Stars on Thursday at Bridgestone Arena with a chance to move into first place in the NHL.
The Predators placed forwards James Neal and Eric Nystrom on injured reserve Thursday, joining forwards Taylor Beck and Matt Cullen. Forward Miikka Salomaki was recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League and will make his NHL debut against Dallas.
“I think our guys have done a good job of either coming into the lineup or coming up from our minor league team and contributing,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Salomaki gets a look tonight, which is good. He’s worked hard down there and had a good start to his year.”
Nashville would move into first place in the League with a win against Dallas, jumping ahead of the Anaheim Ducks because of fewer games played. Nashville has three games in hand on Anaheim.
“You’re always looking at the standings,” Predators forward Colin Wilson said. “You don’t want to fall behind, and you have to make sure you’re ahead of your competition. I think it’s not something that we obsess over, but at the same time I think we just want to win as many games as possible, as simple as that sounds. It’s not about where you are at the midpoint; it’s about where you are at the end so getting the wins now is huge.”
The Predators have won both of the previous games against the Stars this season and said they will try to limit opportunities for the Stars on the rush.
“Last time we were in Dallas (a 3-2 Nashville win on Nov. 6), it was crazy,” Laviolette said. “I think there was 150 attempts at both nets. We got our looks, but we gave up too many. They got their looks, and [Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne] was terrific. The first game that we played in here (a 4-1 Nashville win on Oct. 11), I thought we did a much better job of handling that rush, and handling their cycle in the offensive zone and some of their skilled lines.”
Forward Shawn Horcoff will return to the Dallas lineup against Nashville after missing four games due to illness. Dallas has posted a 7-2-1 record in its past 10 games.
“The team has been playing well,” Horcoff said. “We’ve really played a good stretch here in the last month, so we want to try to keep going and try to rack up some points. This is a big game tonight against a real good team.”
Dallas forward Tyler Seguin leads the NHL in goals with 26 and will face a tough challenge against Rinne, who leads the League with 26 wins.
“He’s a good goalie,” Seguin said. “Whenever you’re playing against those guys, whether it’s him or [Henrik] Lundqvist who came in our building pretty hot as well, you’ve really got to get a lot of pucks on net. You’re going to have to have guys battling in front for those second and third chances, and those are the ones that are going to go in against a goalie like that.”
Nashville forward Filip Forsberg set the franchise rookie record for points in a season (38) with an assist Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Forsberg leads all rookies in points.
Here are the projected lineups:
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Erik Cole – Jason Spezza- Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Travis Moen
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak – Trevor Daley
David Schlemko – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Colton Sceviour, Jason Demers
Injured: Patrik Nemeth (wrist laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrick Eaves (lower body) Rich Peverley (heart issues)
Filip Forsberg – Mike Ribeiro – Craig Smith
Colin Wilson – Mike Fisher – Mark Arcobello
Miikka Salomaki – Calle Jarnkrok – Olli Jokinen
Gabriel Bourque – Paul Gaustad – Viktor Stalberg
Roman Josi – Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm – Ryan Ellis
Victor Bartley – Seth Jones
Scratched: Anton Volchenkov
Injured: James Neal (lower body), Matt Cullen (upper body), Taylor Beck (illness), Eric Nystrom (unknown)
Status report: Lehtonen was the first goalie off the ice for the Stars at the morning skate. … Ritchie will move to the first line alongside Seguin and Benn after posting two goals and one assist in four games to start his career. … Beck and Cullen participated in the morning skate for the Predators but are not expected to play.
Who’s hot: Hemsky has three goals and one assist in his past five games. … Ellis has two goals and three assists in the past three games.