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Desperate teams meet in Dallas

by Mike G. Morreale /
PREDATORS (31-22-8) at STARS (32-23-6)

TV -- FS-TN (HD), FS-SW (HD)

Last 10 -- Nashville 4-5-1; Dallas 2-7-1

Season series -- This will be the third of four meetings between the teams this season. In their most recent game, Dec. 28 in Nashville, Mark Fistric, Krystofer Barch, Loui Eriksson and Steve Ott scored goals to give Dallas a 4-2 victory. In Dallas on Oct. 23, Cal O'Reilly scored 42 seconds after the opening faceoff and Pekka Rinne made 30 saves to outduel Kari Lehtonen in a 1-0 victory for Nashville.

Big story -- Both teams are in desperate need of points with 21 games remaining. Following two straight shutout losses, Nashville entered the weekend ninth in the Western Conference with 70 points. Dallas, meanwhile, snapped a five-game losing skid Thursday to slide into the eighth slot, also with 70 points -- the Stars own one more win than Nashville.

Team Scope:

Predators --
Nashville has lost four of its last five games and has been outshot in 14 of their last 19 games. They are 15-8-3 this season when they do manage to outshoot their opponent. Against the Blackhawks on Thursday, the Preds did outshoot the defending Stanley Cup champions, but were held scoreless in a 3-0 defeat as Corey Crawford stopped 31 shots. Nashville has been outscored 7-0 in their last two games.

"There's no more excuses," Nashville captain Shea Weber said. "There's no reason why we should make mistakes. If we make them, we've got to make up for them and do better from it."

Stars -- Dallas scored an inspiring 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday to earn its fourth win in its last five visits to Joe Louis Arena. Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves and Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson, Krystofer Barch and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for the Stars, who snapped a seven-game road losing streak. After entering the game 10th in the West, Dallas jumped to eighth with 70 points with just three days remaining until the NHL trade deadline Monday.

"We had good spirit in the group," Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "I think the return of (Adam) Burish and Barch (against Detroit) helped bring up the enthusiasm of our guys. It was such a desperate win for us, and now it puts us back in a playoff position. We have to keep rolling out performances like this."

Who's hot -- Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn, who missed his first game since Nov. 7 on Tuesday, has 5 goals and 11 points in his last 14 games. … Just call Ribeiro Mr. Clutch, as 10 of his 11 goals this season have come when his team is either trailing by one goal or tied. Over the last two seasons, in fact, 21 of his 30 goals have come in this same scenario.

Injury report -- Dallas expects top forward Brad Richards (concussion) to return against Nashville and defenseman Nicklas Grossman (hip) is questionable. Raymond Sawada (shoulder) is on injured reserve. … The Predators are without Francis Bouillon (concussion), Matthew Lombardi (concussion), Cal O'Reilly (broken leg) and Marcel Goc (upper body), who was placed on injured reserve.

Stat pack -- When Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum took the ice against Columbus on Tuesday, he became the 18th Predators draft pick to appear on the roster this season, setting a new franchise record. Last season, 17 draft picks were on the Nashville roster. Blum played 16:02, had two hits and blocked two shots in his first NHL game after posting 8 goals and 34 points in 54 games for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League this season.

Puck drop -- With Thursday's victory against the Red Wings, the Stars earned their 700th win since moving to Dallas prior to the start of the 1993-94 season. Since then, only two other teams have recorded more regular-season victories -- Detroit with 802, and New Jersey with 733. Dallas also is the 20th team in NHL history to register 700 or more wins in a single city, and is 58 shy of matching their win total as the Minnesota North Stars (758).
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