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5 Keys: Stars at Predators, Game 1

Dallas needs continued excellence from Bishop; Nashville seeks more production from Simmonds

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer


9:30 p.m. ET; USA, TVAS, SN1, FS-TN, FS-SW

The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators open the Western Conference First Round at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday.

The Predators had the edge in the regular-season series against the Stars, winning three of five games (3-2-0).

Here are 5 keys for Game 1:


[RELATED: Complete Predators vs. Stars series coverage]


1. Avenging last postseason

The Predators were the Presidents' Trophy winners last season but fell short in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing to the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Conference Second Round in seven games.

If the Predators pick up where they left off in the regular season, they'll be in good shape. Nashville won five of its final six games to clinch the Central Division for the second consecutive season.


2. Stars 1-2 goaltending punch

Ben Bishop had an outstanding regular season (27-15-2, 1.98 goals-against average, .934 save percentage) and has proven himself in the playoffs, where he's 21-13 with a 2.09 GAA and .927 save percentage in 36 games.

Bishop missed 16 games this season, but if he has injury issues in the playoffs the Stars have confidence in Anton Khudobin, who was 16-17-5 with a 2.57 GAA and .923 save percentage. Khudobin doesn't have the same playoff experience, however; he's played 27 minutes in one postseason game with the Boston Bruins last season.


3. Get Simmonds going

When the Predators acquired Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers for forward Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25, they looked at his offensive consistency and power-play presence as assets that could help them in the playoffs.

But the 30-year-old forward has been quiet since the trade, scoring three points (goal, two assists) in 17 games with the Predators. If Simmonds can get on a roll in the playoffs, so could the Predators.


4. Finding offense

The Stars averaged 2.55 goals per game, tied for 28th in the NHL. Tyler Seguin led the Stars with 80 points (33 goals, 47 assists) and will need an outstanding postseason to help Dallas win games. The same goes for Alexander Radulov, who was second with 72 points (29 goals, 43 assists) and Jamie Benn, who was third with 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists).

Forward Mats Zuccarello, who the Stars acquired from the New York Rangers on Feb. 24, should help. Zuccarello has recovered from a broken arm and had 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 48 games with the Stars and Rangers.


5. Balanced scoring

The Predators didn't have one or two dominant offensive players this season, but they did have 11 players who scored at least 10 goals and seven who had 40 points or more, including forward Mikael Granlund who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for forward Kevin Fiala on Feb. 25.

Forward Ryan Johansen led the Predators with 64 points (14 goals, 50 assists); defenseman Roman Josi was second with 56 points (15 goals, 41 assists); and forward Filip Forsberg was third with 50 points (28 goals, 22 assists).

Forward Viktor Arvidsson was limited to 58 games because of injury but led the Predators with 34 goals and was fourth with 48 points.

The Predators didn't expect one player to carry the scoring load during the season, and that goes for the playoffs, too.


Stars projected lineup

Jason Dickinson -- Tyler Seguin -- Alexander Radulov

Jamie Benn -- Roope Hintz -- Mats Zuccarello

Andrew Cogliano -- Radek Faksa -- Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark -- Justin Dowling -- Tyler Pitlick

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen -- Roman Polak

Taylor Fedun -- Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: Julius Honka, Jason Spezza, Jamie Oleksiak, Valeri Nichushkin

Injured: Stephen Johns (upper body), Marc Methot (lower body), Martin Hanzal (back), Brett Ritchie (hand)


Predators projected lineup

Filip Forsberg -- Ryan Johansen -- Viktor Arvidsson

Mikael Granlund -- Kyle Turris -- Craig Smith

Colton Sissons -- Nick Bonino -- Austin Watson

Brian Boyle -- Calle Jarnkrok -- Wayne Simmonds

Roman Josi -- Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm -- P.K. Subban

Dan Hamhuis -- Dante Fabbro

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Scratched: Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, Rem Pitlick, Zac Rinaldo, Miikka Salomaki, Cody McLeod, Frederick Gaudreau, Niclas Westerholm

Injured: Rocco Grimaldi (upper body)


Status report

Spezza skated on a line with Nichushkin and Ritchie at the morning skate and could be a healthy scratch. … The Predators held an optional morning skate. Grimaldi participated in practice Monday and Tuesday and the morning skate Wednesday. corresepondent Robby Stanley contributed to this report

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